Tobey Time


Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III: A Fragmented Remembering

Since his abrupt dismissal over a month ago, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding Arcadia University President Carl “Tobey” Oxholm. The man came and left in a whirlwind of less than 2 years. I, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you see it), was gone for the majority of his presidency in the far-away land of Brisbane, Australia. My experiences with Tobey were limited but memorable. Now that he is gone, I find myself recollecting the glimpses of Tobey I had. They make up the image I have of him and are as follows:


I never saw former president Jerry Greiner until his retirement “celebration.” By celebration, I mean I think there was cake and a few professors strongly encouraging us to come away from our big spring carnival to listen to him speak for three minutes. I had forgotten what the concept of a university president meant until the new search had finished and the students were presented with the shiny resume of Carl Oxholm III or “Tobey” as he liked to be called. An accomplished lawyer with a great deal of experience in university administration, Tobey seemed to me like a giant step in the right direction, at least on paper.


Since day one of orientation in the fall of 2011, I think I saw Tobey at nearly every event I went to on campus. The majority of the time I was relatively surprised to see him in attendance. He would always show up for 10 minutes or so, make his presence known, and then mysteriously disappear.  By everywhere I mean club meetings, tiny prospective student events, sports rallies, any event held during the day on campus, and just walking around smiling at students whenever possible. I remember thinking that was a whole lot for a man who had just assumed responsibility for the workings of an entire university.


One undoubted fact about Tobey is that he was a sports fan. He embodied more school spirit, when it came to athletics, then the combined efforts of the student population, who had grown accustomed to a culture of apathy when it came to Arcadia sports teams. I myself failed to attend most sporting events but went to a few men’s soccer games that semester. At one game in particular, on a rather cold and blustery day, play had slowed to a dull set of casual back and forth ball movements for about ten minutes. Out of nowhere, loud calls of “GO ARCADIA! GO AU! GET THAT BALL!” began echoing from the back of the crowd. As I turned to look, I saw that everyone around me had as well. Sure enough, it was Tobey! He was wearing what looked to be approximately four to five t-shirts layered on top of one another, with the top (of course) emblazoned with the scarlet and grey Arcadia University logo. He shouted at the same level for the next ten minutes or so, giving helpful hints to the players on the field who were clearly having an off day.  Just when even the players began to stare, he was gone.


November 10th 2012 (nearly a full year later) was my next interaction with Tobey. I received an email entitled “Awesome!” Upon first glance at the title, I thought this would either be a really wonderful email of some variety or spam. Good news: It was actually a great email! Tobey had sent another student and I a thank you for creating a slideshow of 150 or so pictures that we produced for our big prospective students day in the spring. However, this meant that it must have been played much more often then expected, including six months later when we got this email. The email ended with the word “Bravo” and I will be honest in saying it made my day.


I had been back on campus now for a month or so now and hadn’t seen or heard from Tobey at all. I was climbing the middle stairs of the commons building on a regular, gloomy, winter Monday at around 7:00 PM. I happened to be carrying my first meal of the day (despite waking up at 8:00 AM), consisting of a bagel, cream cheese, and a hot chocolate. On the landing, I crossed paths with, you guessed it, Tobey!  We exchanged quick smiles and the following conversation:

Tobey: I see you have dinner there!

Me: Yes!

Tobey: That looks more like breakfast though! Oh no, maybe this is your breakfast!

I really struggled with reacting to that as I had been working non-stop since 8:00 AM and it therefore felt almost offensive. I decided on a simple, polite chuckle in response, which he may or may not heard as he was already half way down the stairs.


Not long after I began to notice that although Tobey’s physical presence had noticeably lessened, it seemed to have been replaced by a myriad of pictures. I was doing a lot of photo sorting working in the University Relations department at the time and came across a wide variety of photos of Tobey, seemingly as involved in campus activities as ever. I also noticed a number of posters hanging around public places that included his winning smile.


I have heard so much about the new turf field built while I was abroad. Personally, I’m not sure how “We really need a new field.” turned into “We really need a new turf field and a new field house and bleachers and a few other things that require lots of constant maintenance.” But, things happen. Very expensive fields get built and used. Why was our turf so expensive? Why was that the one thing I kept hearing about in Australia and when I returned? I’m not sure but I know that whenever Tobey is spoken of, the turf field is always mentioned.


Just before spring break and the firing, I saw Tobey being as presidential as possible at an event for perspective First Year Study Abroad and Honors Program Students. As always, he gave a short speech on the honor of the university to have these selected students. His speech however focused heavily on the preview program, occurring in just a few days time.  He seemed more frazzled then normal and his speech ended up as a mesh between the importance of the preview program and his excitement for his own personal travel to various countries during the week. This did not seem like normal Tobey.


And just like that, he was gone. There was no real warning, but a general whispering had begun days before the announcement. On a small campus, news travels fast. Officially released of his duties on March 8th and announced a few days later, Tobey was no longer allowed on campus.


I lost track of the numbers of emails we received from various sources that claimed to be clarifying matters and satiating student and public curiosity. It was very easy to see that every email and piece of communication put forth on the matter stated the same exact thing in as many different ways as possible. Though I, therefore, must commend our University Relations department for their excellence, I still remain frustrated at the lack of information put forth. Seeing as I am a student and I am paying to attend this University, I feel it is only fair to be provided with the truth, especially if a major mistake was made and the money I have been contributing now for three years was not being used to its full potential. But, thanks to confidentiality clauses and public relations basics, I will simply never know.

These few memories are unusual, disjointed, and dysfunctional. But they are all I will ever know of Tobey and his dealings with Arcadia University. That is why it frustrates me and many other students that we will never know what really happened. No one, except for the board of trustees, Tobey (and most likely his wife Kim), and their respective lawyers, will be privy to the information surrounding the circumstances that caused Tobey to be fired.

As constricting and frustrating as this whole process has been, it also gives us a chance to use our constitutional right to freedom of speech and our incredible ability to gossip about controversial situations. If we will not be given answers as to why Tobey was fired, I think it is only fair that we create our own, being as creative as possible.

Perhaps Tobey was fired in a very Mean-Girls-type situation in which the board insisted that they wear pink on Wednesdays and Tobey was more of greens and blues type of guy. Maybe Tobey did not like the food in the dining hall. Maybe there was a secret tribe of furry blue penguins that captured Tobey as their leader and he chose to accept but could not reveal his motives as the secrecy of the tribe was of utmost importance. I mean, it could happen.

Maybe one of these reasons will be quoted so often that it will eventually be accepted as the actual reason that Tobey was fired. So, use your imagination and the creative thinking skills that classes at Arcadia University have enhanced and come up with your own reason. Leave it in the comments below!

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