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Reno’s Northwood Faculty Hall of Fame: Tom Fleming

Reno’s Northwood Faculty Hall of Fame 

Tom Fleming 

The next inductee into my Hall of Fame is a member of a rare breed, faculty who excelled at both coaching and teaching.  Tom Fleming impacted hundreds of lives by his commitment to bringing out the best in his classes and teams. His teaching and coaching style was markedly unique, insisting on hustle, team goals, and fair play. He was a truly memorable and impactful mentor.    

Flem’s coaching career is legendary, not only because his teams had great won/loss records but because he produced a couple hundred players ready for top-level college hockey, dozens of whom became college captains. He was a top strategist who made the game simple “You skate, you win.” Because he had prepared the team during the week, he didn’t need to waste time screaming on the weekends; he just issued matter-of-fact reminders of what players’ responsibilities were. I seldom talked to a skater who thought he was better coached in college than he was under Flem.  

A little-known fact about Flem: he was the faculty’s go-to guy on all logistical issues -- academic schedules and transportation in particular. His logical, mathematical mind always offered the most efficient solutions. 

I don’t think I can do better in a description of Tom than to offer the words I wrote for the 2002 Epitome dedication to him:  

Comparing Mr. Fleming to other teachers is like comparing well, apples to oranges. Whether Flem is prepping us for the math SAT, changing the forecheck in response to the opponent’s breakout, or balancing teams in one of the innumerable intermural competitions he arranges, he is leading by example, forcing us to go full speed each class, each shift, each day. His nervous energy is complemented by a keen focus; he’s always on the alert for whatever will give his students or players an edge. Not exactly “whatever.” The rules of sport represent to Coach Fleming a code as worthy as that of chivalry – you don’t cheat, you don’t play dirty, you don’t let your teammates down. Whether in the classroom or on the rink, fairness is the order of the day: everyone gets exactly what he earns, but each day is a new chance. No one is quicker to reward an improved attitude than Flem. He never dwells on losses; they are just lessons that make us better tomorrow.  

There is a toughness to him that characterizes all great athletes and most successful teachers. It had to be toughness that motivated him, when his son Tommy was hospitalized in Burlington, to drive over after class each day and stay in his room throughout the night before driving back to be on time for his first period the next day. Or maybe it was something else. 

Mr. Fleming is a teacher, coach, and man who cares enough to help us be the best we can be and who teaches us to compete with passion and dignity.