The Advance-Titan

Residence Life Director retires after 35 years

Director of Residence Life Tom Fojtik has taken the University’s retirement package offer and will be retiring on Aug. 1 after 35 years of service at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Fojtik said he started working at UWO when he was 23 years old and, in a professional sense, has grown up here.

Fojtik said he was eligible the last time the campus offered retirement packages but thought it was too soon.

“I just thought the timing might be right [now],” Fojtik said. “We have a newly renovated building opening this upcoming fall and I really wanted to see that through and when I leave it won’t be quite done, but close. It just seemed liked the right time.”

Fojtik said he wouldn’t call his leaving a retirement, but rather more of a sabbatical because he plans on working in the future.

“I’m 58 years old and I’m being given the gift of time,” Fojtik said. “Imagine, even for yourself, six months off. That is a gift and that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

According to Fojtik, his biggest accomplishment here at UWO was including people in his work and seeing his staff grow professionally in front of him.

“I’m very eager to give them real responsibilities and I think that that’s really been for me, as a leader, a theme for me,” Fojtik said. “I’m really proud of the impact I’ve had as a supervisor that way.”

Assistant Residence Life Director Elizabeth Morrell said Fojtik’s legacy is his ability to change and enhance student’s experience in the dorms.

“Tom’s legacy is, without question, the quality and impact of the residential experience for students at UWO,” Morrell said. “He has been essential in advocating for the facilities, programs, staff and opportunities that allow students to have a transformative experience in the residence halls.”

United Students in Residence Halls President Shania Williams said Fojtik is the ideal director for residence life.

“His work ethic is incomparable to anyone I have ever met,” Williams said. “Tom is someone who exceedingly meets all of the characteristics. He doesn’t have to, but he comes to every USRH assembly meeting and if for some reason he can’t make it he lets us know ahead of time. That is not something you would see a lot of Directors of Residence Life doing.”

Fojtik said he has a lot of memories at UWO, but how nice people were around campus stood out to him.

“The one thing that really strikes me, when I came here for a job interview 35 years ago, was the basic niceness of the people, particularly the students,” Fojtik said.

Assistant Director of Residence Life Lori Develice Collins said she had the opportunity to work with Fojtik as an undergraduate community advisor.

“At that time, Tom was an Assistant Director of Residence Life, working with leadership initiatives and residence life programming,” Collins said. “Some of the things hall staff and hall leaders most appreciate about Tom now are the same things I admired in him over 20 years ago, and still do today: empowerment, encouragement and approachability.”

Fojtik said there is an immediate jolt to the campus when upper level faculty leave, but the campus will overcome it.

“The fact is, we should all be building redundancies into our work,” Fojtik said. “For example, virtually everything I do, I have someone in this office that can do it also. So those kind of redundancies exist so that makes the transition easier.”

Morrell said her favorite memory of Fojtik is his role during move-in days in the fall.

“The energy he brings to welcoming our students to campus during this first Homecoming is infectious and the reason so many volunteers request to ‘be wherever Tom is,’” Morrell said.

Fojtik said his youngest is going off to college in August so he is going to welcome that.

“The month of August I’m going to not come to work,” Fojtik said. “I’m not going to go to any meetings. August and September, I’m really going to focus on the house and the garden and getting the kids off the college and really embracing that.”

Fojtik said the short term plan is to stay at home and train their new puppy.

“I’m going to enjoy the first couple months for sure,” Fojtik said.

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Residence Life Director retires after 35 years