Growing up a central Illinois native, ALPLM Volunteer Tom Murgatroyd’s connection to Abraham Lincoln and his lore started early in his life. Years later, after his retirement from the Air Force, he followed this inner pull to get involved at the ALPLM and assist in telling the Lincoln story. “While stationed at Scott Air Force Base for our final tour, the ALPLM’s formal dedication took place,” he explained. “I made myself a promise that upon my retirement and return to the Springfield area, I would look into volunteering there.”
He kept that promise and has maintained his volunteer service at the ALPLM for the last decade.
After graduating from Illinois College, Tom served in the United States Air Force for almost 38 years. While spending a career in technical logistics, aircraft, and planning fields, he always strived to stay grounded in literature, fine arts, and the local history of his travel locations. Tom finds balance in his pursuit of these interests with his volunteer role at the ALPLM and has become a staple of the Volunteer Services Department team.
“Tom is a natural leader,” expressed Jeremy Carrell, VSD Director. “He is a valuable member of our volunteer supportive staff and I regularly request his assistance in helping our management team educate and train our new volunteers.”
Tom credits his time at the ALPLM with strengthening his understanding of Lincoln’s lasting impact on our country and the world. “Since my association with ALPLM and our world-class historians, I have come to see more of the conflict Lincoln faced, even internally, regarding slavery and the need to preserve our union at almost any cost,” he shared. “There is a depth to Lincoln the man that is missed in local legends.”
Tom takes immense pride and satisfaction in volunteering at the ALPLM and communicating the historic knowledge and information that he has gleaned with our guests. He prioritizes his opportunities to speak with school groups in hope of piquing their desire to explore history at a deeper level.
“It is particularly gratifying when students or chaperones seek us out as volunteers to answer questions, or just listen to their interpretations of displays, artifacts, or performances,” he said. Tom grasps the essential role of our volunteers and considers greeting bus groups and interacting with students to be a highlight of his volunteer experience.
“I am constantly amazed at the international draw of Lincoln, Springfield, and our museum; I have never failed, on every shift for almost ten years, to meet someone from another country!” he added.
The challenges that Abraham Lincoln encountered throughout his life is another important topic that Tom conveys to our visitors. He focuses much of his energy on instructing students and young people about the obstacles and disappointments that Lincoln faced as a boy and a young man and reminding them that even the greatest in our history endured setbacks along their way. Tom stated, “I often try to point out in Journey One all the failures and losses Lincoln had in his life (deaths of loved ones, job rejections, lost elections, etc.) and how the resilience of his spirit helped him stay the course and ultimately become President.”
When reflecting on the many of incentives of volunteering at the museum Tom is quick to mention the new friendships and relationships he has formed during his service. He explained, “As a weekly volunteer, I get to have two great groups of friends, from my two shifts. With such varied professions and occupations, I learn something from each of my teammates on our shift. We all get together at various times throughout the year for lunches, some of us play golf together, and I think we all genuinely look forward to our shifts and renewing contact with each other.”
Over the last few months, Tom has adjusted to the restrictions caused by COVID-19 and is spending much of his time enjoying his favorite activities and hobbies, including golfing, walking, reading, and connecting with friends and family through Zoom meetings. Like all of us, Tom is eager for things to return to normal and looking forward to the day when he can travel again and attend his grandchildren’s sporting events. Always an optimist, he believes he has found a silver lining to this extended time at home as he jokingly remarked, “my lawn has never looked this good!”
Thank you, Tom for your desire to impart your love of history with future generations and reminding them that, like Lincoln, they can face their challenges with confidence and fortitude.