Profiles

Thomas Eliason, Jr.

Thomas was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. His citation is copied below:

Loyalty is a virtue that is practically archaic in today’s society, yet Thomas Walker Eliason’s devotion to Washington College has never wavered. For 70 years Tom has been faithful to his alma mater.

Tom Eliason could very well be known as the savior of Washington College tennis—not because he was a national champion or a championship coach, but because he cared. When the program was floundering in the post-World War II years and was nearly dropped as a varsity sport, Tom rescued it. He saved the program from extinction, not just once but twice. Eliason’s work as head coach helped keep the program alive and laid the building blocks for the present-day teams that have enjoyed national success.

As an undergraduate, Tom Eliason was “a court rat.” Despite an early illness that limited his physical abilities, he was always at the courts, either playing or watching. In 1940, Dr. Wilton Tolles, a professor of English and the part-time tennis coach, enticed Tom to come out for the team. By his junior year, 1941, young Eliason had blossomed as a player and was a member of a team that included two other talented players, Bill Nagler and Bill Johnson. This team would become the best squad in nearly four decades.

Tom’s first stint as coach was from 1948 to 1955. Despite the objections of his wife, Ginny, he succumbed to the desperate pleas of a student who insisted that he coach or the team would fold. Eliason’s most successful season was in 1952. This team, led by Jack Smith and the Wykcoff brothers, posted an 8-2 record, thus surpassing his mentor’s record set 10 years earlier. Following the 1955 campaign, Eliason stepped down as coach to take a more active role in the family business. Only five years passed before longtime friend and athletic director Ed Athey persuaded Tom to come out of retirement and save the program one more time. 1963 marked the end of his last tour of duty for his beloved college, yet he remains an avid supporter of the tennis teams.

Tom still resides in Chestertown and was married for 60 years to the former Ginny Hoopes. He has five daughters—Deb, Ginny, Judy, Nancy and Pisha—and eight grandchildren.

Washington College considers it an honor and privilege to induct Thomas Walker Eliason into the Washington College Athletic Hall of Fame on this tenth day of October, 2009.