Dr. Thomas Smyth grew up in Indiana Pennsylvania where his father was the head of the science department at the Indiana State Teachers College. His love of the outdoors started on birding hikes with his father, an avid ornithologist. Tom graduated from Princeton University in 1948 after serving in the US Army during World War II. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1952. He was an instructor and research associate at Tufts University from 1952 until 1955. Tom joined the faculty at Penn State University in 1955 where he was a professor of entomology and biophysics. He retired in 1991 but remained active in the communities of Penn State and State College.
Tom was know for his dedication to the Penn State Outdoors club for which he was an advisor for many years. He lead students in hikes, canoe trips and mountain climbing and numerous other outdoor activities for over three decades.
Personally, Tom also trekked in the Himalayas, and Tien Shan Mountains in Asia. He climbed Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt. Fuji in Japan, Mt. Ararat in Turkey and the Matterhorn in Switzerland. He took a leave of absence one summer from Tufts to join a glaciology team surveying the icecap 900 miles inside the Arctic Circle north of Thule, Greenland.
After retiring from Penn State, Tom Continued to personally maintain 25 miles of hiking trails, primarily on Mt. Nittany. Tom received the Friend of the Mountain award in 1991 from the Mount Nittany Conservancy and an outlook was named in his honor. In 2012, Tom was awarded the Lion's Paw Medal from Penn State as a “dedicated teacher and student organization advisor, caring community leader” and “tireless guardian of Mt. Nittany and exemplary stewardship of natures resources”.
Tom's plaque at his overlook on Mt. Nittany reads, “This Mountain is more lush and its trails more inviting thanks to the patient work and quiet leadership of its friend Tom Smyth”.
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