USF's Dr. Thomas Hallock has changed countless students' lives with his constructive criticism, patience and support

Best of the Bay 2020: 16 people or places that've undoubtedly changed Tampa Bay for the better.

The first time I met Dr. Thomas Hallock I was so nervous and intimidated I started to sweat the second we shook hands. This is funny, especially now that I know how down-to-earth the English and American literature professor is, but it is absolutely true. We were downtown St. Pete attending an open mic poetry reading (don’t you miss those?) at [email protected] and some mutual friends who knew I planned on transferring to USFSP introduced us.

Tom Hallock is one of those people you like as soon as you meet. Quirky, brilliant, and cooler than he realizes, Hallock has a certain professorial charm. With his signature style of Roy Orbison specs, cool socks and fun ties, the man is both approachable and smooth.

I have been a writer all of my life, but always had trouble saying the words aloud due to deep insecurities. When I arrived at Hallock’s Nature Writing class, I was aghast to learn the professor required regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings to personally review our prose. To me, there was no greater nightmare than letting a much better, experienced and talented writer read my own rookie ramblings and then talking about it with them in great detail.

To a budding writer, though, there is no greater and more valuable gift than time and attention to one’s work from a professor. It is a rare individual who is willing to spend precious spare time meeting with young, insecure students who are fairly terrible writers; to see the potential in them and encourage them; to give them constructive criticism and patience and support. To give them truth and help them come into their own. 

Tom Hallock is that rare individual. 

In writing class I once gathered the guts to mumble something about wanting to maybe-hopefully-dare-I-say-it-be-a-writer “someday” and Hallock responded by having me declare out loud to the class: “I am going to be a writer.” He then instructed the class to respond to me in unison with an enthusiastic “Resie, you are going to be a writer.” 

I pretended to casually laugh it off but in all honesty was blushing 10 shades of red and fighting back tears. Never before had someone seen the potential in me and so emphatically declared it to me; never had someone encouraged me to declare it to myself. For the first time in a very long time, I felt seen. Validated. Worth it.

I still burst with gratitude whenever I remember that moment.

My story is just one example of one class session on one random spring day. There are countless other memories of Dr. Hallock in my repertoire; adventures from exciting and eye-opening field trips like an overnight sailing trip and a class swamp walk, escorted by an alligator wrestler through the ‘glades. There are thousands of other students with thousands more memories of Tom Hallock. His enthusiasm for teaching and learning, his passion for reading and writing, his patience and persistence and—despite the man trying to get us all down—his refusal to stop fighting the good fight. Dr. Hallock inspired me to become a better student and taught me to become a better writer. He is a big part of why I also became a teacher.

In addition to teaching English and writing classes full-time at USF, Dr. Hallock is a husband and father and soccer aficionado. He is a wonderful writer whose most recent book, “Trespass and Memory: A Teacher’s Journey into the Literatures of Early America,” was published by the University of Alabama Press. Hallock was a Fulbright Scholar and Garcia-Robles Chair of U.S. Studies at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP).

See all winners from Best of the Bay 2020.

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About The Author

Resie Waechter

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5bccb9c0b38df12e008b45d6" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Resie Waechter is a recent USFSP graduate who majored in English literature and cultural studies with a minor in history. She is a fumbling fitness junkie with a special...
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