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CSU honors the Sutherlands as part of Founders Day

February 3, 2014

As part of the 144th anniversary of Colorado's own land-grant institution, the university will honor Tom and Jean Sutherland with the prestigious Founders Day medal on Feb. 11.

Sutherlands' legacy honored

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The incarceration of professor Tom Sutherland in Beirut was very much a shared ordeal with his wife, Jean. The two are pictured here in 2001, 10 years after Tom was freed following 6 1/2 years in captivity. Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post

Dorcas Morgan Murray, daughter of the late CSU President William E. "Bill" and Lilla B. Morgan, catches up with Jean Sutherland at a book signing in the Lory Student Center.

Tom and Jean Sutherland have supported the Fort Collins and CSU communities for decades in various ways, including providing transportation for CSU's Theatre and Arts programs with their 'Arts Wagon' since 2006. They exemplify generosity and conviction in helping our community grow.

In 1983, Tom Sutherland's work took Jean to Beirut, Lebanon, and the American University of Beirut where her commitment to an English as a Second Language program for affected Lebanese youth gave her a meaningful life while Tom was abducted and held as a hostage for more than six years.


An emeritus professor in the Department of Animal Science at CSU, Tom was  serving as dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science at American University of Beirut in Lebanon when he was taken hostage in 1985. Upon his capture, his wife, Jean, moved to Beirut where she stayed until he was freed six years later.

When they returned to Colorado in 1991, the Sutherlands were welcomed home by friends, family, and community members – one of the largest gatherings of its kind to ever take place in Fort Collins.  

Devoted to the community

Tom, who spent 25 years at CSU, and Jean, a professor of English at CSU, the University of Colorado and the American University of Beirut, have devoted their lives to education and the Fort Collins community. Since the early 1970s, Tom has served as a committee member and board member for numerous entities, including the city's planning and zoning board, the AMC Cancer Research Center, Larimer County United Way, Colorado Boys Ranch and by serving as a chairman of the national Teaching Committee of the American Society of Animal Science.

Jean has served on the Board for the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and has been a strong supporter of key community initiatives, including UniverCity Connections, Homeward 2020, and the Colorado Conservation Exchange. Together, Tom and Jean established the Sutherland Family Foundation, which has supported several Fort Collins nonprofits including the Food Bank for Larimer County, Bas Bleu Theatre, and KUNC radio.They also have contributed to the Colorado Boys Ranch, agricultural scholarships at Colorado State as well as the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and Crossroads Safehouse.

Tom has been recognized for his public contributions with the Multiple Sclerosis Hope Award, distinguished service award from Colorado State as well as several awards for teaching while on the faculty, including the top professor award given by the Colorado State student body. He has also received international awards, including the Award of Merit of the European Animal Research Society in The Hague and the Award Merite Agricole de France. He was awarded the Charles A. Lory Public Service award for his leadership in helping the university attain a vital balance of teaching, research and service.

Ceremony in their honor

A public Founders Day Medallion Ceremony and reception will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Lory Student Center's Cherokee Park Ballroom on campus. 

Founders Day events

Beginning at 1:44 p.m. Feb. 11, CSU will kick off its 144th birthday celebration. Join the CSU cheerleaders, Pep Band, and CAM the Ram in wishing CSU another happy year. Cookies and commemorative bookmarks will be available while supplies last.