College Corner: “Mystery Dean” Tom Elverson

5 mins read

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Gazette staff recently heard that “a new Dean was hired” and of course wanted to know more. To that end, this reporter met with Tom Elverson ’75  in an out-of-the-way Parrish office (east side). Fortunately, the Pennsylvania resident was able to overlook my Patriots hat and gave me a glimpse into the world of a Special Assistant to the Dean’s office.

Andrew Quinton: What is your job here at Swarthmore?
Tom Elverson: It’s really unique. I’m a psychologist by trade, but here, I work out of the Dean’s office. Half of my job is counseling. I do drug and alcohol evaluations. If students are in trouble with local police or ends up in Worth, I can offer them counseling. Sometimes students need counseling but don’t want to go to psych services. David Ramirez does a great job down there but sometimes you need something different.

AQ: Somebody told me that your job was to be a “liaison to the athletes and the fraternities.” Is that accurate?
TE: Yes, actually, that’s very accurate. Most of my work is with athletes. Coaches can refer student/athletes to me and sometimes I get referrals from other students. The other 50% of my job is with alumni relations. President Bloom hired me for “special projects”. A number of alums feel disconnected because of the football decision and I’m trying to get those alums back into the fold. Half of my day is dedicated to student life and half to alumni relations. It’s a very unique position, but it’s a great position. I meet with President Bloom and with Bob Gross biweekly . . . I have good communication with people in power.

AQ: What did you do before coming to Swarthmore?
TE: I was a Swarthmore grad in 1975. Since then, I’ve been a psychologist/therapist. I still have a private practice two nights per week.

AQ: It seems like there was no fanfare or announcement regarding your hiring. Do you know why that is?
TE: Well, I was introduced, but there was no official introduction to the student body. I was hired at an odd time, September 15th, which made it kind of awkward to do a full introduction.

AQ: On what sort of issues might a student contact you?
TE: It’s usually a coach referral or a peer referral. A peer referral is optimal. Sometimes the deans will refer students—deans like Joy Charlton have already been counseling students and will sometimes refer them to me. Confidentiality is of course guaranteed. I come out of a model of counseling that accentuates vigilance and visibility. I eat lunch in the dining hall almost every day and try to be at as many games as possible. It’s a humanistic model and hopefully makes students feel more comfortable.

AQ: It seems like the people you see would be happy to know that their counselor is taking an interest in them.
TE: Well, counseling is a unique relationship. People can be uncomfortable with seeing someone in both a counseling situation and a real-life situation, so I have to make sure that doesn’t become an issue.

AQ: While trying to find out who you were, I did a Google search of “Elverson Swarthmore” and found out that a Lewis Elverson is a former Swat football coach. Any relation?
TE: He’s my dad, so I have a pretty good connection to Swat football which helps me when talking to alumni. I also played two years of basketball and threw javelin and discus for four years at Swat. Oh, and I was the football team manager. Can’t forget that.

AQ: OK, on to some silly stuff. Favorite food?
TE: Shrimp and lobster.

AQ: I’m from Maine. Good answer. Favorite band?
TE: Hmm . . . John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’m sure 70s people will love that.

Truth be told, this reporter loved it too.

The Phoenix