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Tom Shelton Wins Extra Mile Award

April 9, 2018

Special Collections is extremely pleased to announce that Tom Shelton, Special Collections Photographs Curator, has won UTSA’s University Excellence Extra Mile Award:

The Extra Mile Award recognizes an individual with (3) three years or more of continuous service with UTSA and who has taken the initiative to contribute to the success of UTSA through his or her outstanding contributions at work.   Extra efforts demonstrated in their accomplishments, timeliness, and follow-through, willingness to help fellow employees; provide good customer service with creativity, dedication, cooperation and reliability.  He or she has performed at a level above and beyond normal job requirements that have resulted in furthering the department’s and UTSA’s goals and mission.

Standing L-R: Kristin Law, University Archivist; Melissa Gohlke, Assistant Archivist; Amber Harmon, Library Assistant; Amy Rushing, Head of Special Collections; Carlos Cortez, Library Assistant; Tom Shelton, Photographs Curator; Dean Hendrix, Dean of Libraries; Alyssa Franklin, Digitization Specialist, Juli Favor, Volunteer; Garland Davis, Ruth Lyle, Volunteer; Volunteer. Seated L-R: Shirley Montalvo, Volunteer; Leah Rios, SVREP Project Archivist; Katie Rojas, Manuscripts Archivist; Julianna Barrera-Gomez, Digital Archivist.

Several members of Special Collections have shared their thoughts about Tom and his work:

“Tom’s approach to reference is truly outstanding—beyond outstanding.  Many patrons visiting the Special Collections Library at the HemisFair Park Campus are community researchers or people with a general interest in some aspect of our city or region’s history. Oftentimes they’re not entirely sure how to communicate what sort of material they might be looking for—they have a subject interest and want to know more, or they have a specific question but aren’t sure how they’d go about researching it. Tom calmly listens to their questions, expertly pulling out further details about their interests as they talk, and then applies what I call his ‘Tom Magic.’ He hears a name, a place, a section of town, and he walks to the card catalog and begins pulling out cards, then quickly walks to the print copy section and pulls out photos of their grandparents, their old family homes, even the gas station on the corner of St. Mary’s that they remembered getting candy from as a kid. I’ve seen patrons gasp and be moved to tears as they realize he’s found a long-lost image they were only hoping they might find.”

“Everyone knows and loves Tom, and I can see why. He is beyond helpful. He is humble, patient, kind, and quietly tenacious. Despite being the greatest walking treasure trove of local historical knowledge, he never makes anyone feel stupid or belittled for what they don’t know. He just explains things calmly and tells you what you want to know without any fuss. He serves up just the piece of history you’re looking for with a side of southern grace and charm.”

“I’m impressed with [Tom’s] patience in responding to the constant stream of requests for photographs. He is a living repository of San Antonio history, and has sharp recall for stories of the people, places, and events from our city’s past. There are several instances when I’ve spent time researching a topic, thinking I’ve uncovered something long forgotten, only to share my findings with Tom and have him add further details from his memory of a related project he worked on many years ago. He’s a marvel and a treasure.”

“Tom has a remarkable ability to listen attentively to stories of other people’s family histories. He is also a captivating storyteller—clearly drawn from his decades of service as an unofficial historian of San Antonio and South Texas—and is surprisingly funny for such a humble and unassuming individual.”

“Our department has benefitted immensely from the meticulous work he has put into creating descriptions for photographs documenting urban renewal projects, which allows patrons in the reading room and anywhere in the world (via our digital library) to locate homes and communities that were destroyed by San Antonio’s interstates.  His ability to remember details about photographs and aspects of San Antonio history and geography make him a living database.  While he, with the help of our devoted group of volunteers, has tirelessly digitized and created metadata for thousands of photos that we can now search in our photographs database, his ability to connect with patrons and understand what they’re looking for can never be replicated.”


Thank you Tom, for all that you do! We are proud of you and are lucky to have you as part of the Special Collections team.

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