Written By Ciera Lowe ChE ’14
Thomas Driscoll graduated from the Cooper Union with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1977 after growing up in North Jersey’s Bergen County. His father, Tim Driscoll, also a graduate from Cooper Union’s night school with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1956. Tom describes the admiration for the school that was ingrained by his family. His father had returned from World War II and didn’t have any other route to a college degree. This immense gratitude to Cooper Union grew into a goal for Tom to also attend The Cooper Union.
When Tom attended Cooper, most of the engineering students grew up in the tristate area and commuted from their family homes each day. This gave the school a different social landscape than we see today. Among Tom’s fondest memories of his time at Cooper were the intramural sports he participated in. He did have to admit that, nearly 30 years after a 2-on-2 basketball tournament that he participated in during his senior year with classmate John Athas, Stephen Baker had a better memory of the game than himself. At a Founders Day dinner a few years ago, Dean Baker was able to describe specific plays and shots that Tom and John had made, although they unfortunately did not end up making it very far in the tournament.
When asked about any stories his father had told about his time at Cooper Union, Tom retold the story of a plan his father and his classmates came up with to convince a professor to give them more time to complete homework. He explained that the members of the night school at that time each spent about 6 years in the program working during the day, taking classes in the evening, and weekends studying. Tom’s father had a class that met on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and each week they would be assigned work on Tuesday and be asked to hand it in on Thursday. Unfortunately, they also had a different class scheduled for Wednesday evenings leaving no time to complete the work. Before one of their Thursday evening classes a couple of students stood in the doorway of the classroom asking each student as they showed up if they had completed the homework. Those who said yes were sent down the hall and not allowed into the room. When the professor showed up and tried to collect the homework to no avail they were finally able to make their point and convince him to give a full week for completing their homework.
Returning to recent history, Mr. Driscoll was asked to run for alumni trustee in 2007 and was elected. When asked how he made his way to being chairman of the finance committee, he answered, “I think I asked too many questions,” with a chuckle. The following year he took on the role and describes a period of very hard work to try to understand the financial situation. He also encourages everyone to look at the numbers and graphs in the State of Cooper Union report, saying those were the kind of numbers and graphs that were lacking previously. He seems very happy working with William Mea now, and is hopeful for the future of his Finance Committee armed with the proper information to make decisions.
Having worked through a tumultuous time at Cooper Union, at the eye of the storm, no less, one has to question why Tom Driscoll continued on the Board past the end of his alumni trustee term in 2011. When asked why he did, he said that he enjoys working with a team of interesting, engaging people. The Trustee work provides a different challenge from his day job as Managing Director in Barclay’s Gas and Oil Research.
Tom finds great joy in the student events that he’s invited to attend, citing the Invention Factory and End of the Year Shows as some of his favorite events each year. He also admitted that part of the motivation is the honor and prestige that comes with a position like this. However, beyond all of that, it seems that Tom Driscoll and his wife Diane have a deep-rooted philanthropic nature. Tom described the woman that he and Dianne consider their adopted daughter. In addition to Tom and Diane’s two adult sons, they hosted a foreign exchange student who returned to live with them after finishing high school. It became clear that she had no way to afford college so Tom and Diane took it upon themselves to fund her college education. This story speaks volumes about why he is a member of the Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and his commitment to a free Cooper Union.
For more information you can read Mr. Driscoll’s profile on the Cooper Union webite.