Obituary: Thomas (Tom) Hobday
December 13, 1942 – January 23, 2023
This is a story about a man whose character stood for integrity, ethics, dignity, humility, empathy and knowing that all people have value. His name is Tom Hobday.
Tom graduated in 1964 from the University of California Haas School of Business (Berkeley) with a degree in Risk Management and Insurance. He was President of his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, serving as the Interfraternity Council President, and obtaining the agreement of 49 fraternities to eliminate racial discrimination in their admission policies. Tom was also a member of the Ski Team and Ski Club, was founder of the Winter Carnival, and served as the sole Caucasian member of the Berkeley campus’ Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Racial Discrimination. This was in 1963—just imagine! He was named to the “Order of the Golden Bear” and “Californians” honor societies. In 1964, Tom received the Sumner Mering Award from the Northern California UC Alumni chapter as the “Outstanding Graduate” from Northern California.
Tom felt strongly about giving back to our country. He enrolled in ROTC at Berkeley and entered the United States Army. Tom served gallantly in Vietnam, receiving a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal, with three oak clusters. Tom was a forward observer in Vietnam, and not many forward observers returned, due to the extreme risk of that detail. On the airplane home, he outlined three lifetime goals: Family, Community and Making a Difference in each thing he targeted to do. Tom loved the United States of America, especially the tenants of our Constitution.
Returning from Vietnam, Tom learned he had developed severe kidney disease, likely from being in the jungle with untreated strep throat. He knew this would certainly shorten his life, so he wasted no time in beginning his lifetime goals. He joined his father and became one of the Co-Owners and Chairman of the Board of Sacramento Valley Insurance, one of the largest insurance brokerages in inland Northern California. One of Tom’s greatest joys was when his daughter Heather was born about that time!
Tom went on to develop specialty liability insurance programs for the ski industry, specialty workers compensation insurance programs for general industrial clients, and he established seven Cayman Island insurance companies, owned jointly by his company’s clients. Tom’s technical expertise and the commission volume of his “book of business” placed him in the top 1% of insurance brokers in the country. He was recognized as the “outstanding broker” in the Inland Northern California region, and was further recognized in 1991 by the National Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) Society as their “National Standard Setter”.
Tom loved Sacramento, where he was raised. He served as President of the Sacramento Commerce and Trade Organization (the economic development corporation for the six-county Sacramento region), the Sacramento Tomorrow Coalition, the Crocker Art Museum Foundation, the Golden West Track and Field Association, and the Mountain Valley Chapter of the American Leadership Forum. In addition, he served as a director on many non-profit boards, including Disabled Sports USA, Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, 17 years on the California State University Sacramento Trust Foundation, and Golden State Organ Donor Services. He was recognized by Sacramento Magazine as the “Sacramentan of the Year for Business Development”. In 1996, Tom received the annual “Sacramento Regional Leadership Award” from the Comstock Club, as the person who contributed the most to the six-county region in the previous year.
Wanting to continue “giving back”, Tom served the American Cancer Society as National Income Development Chairman, as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Board of Directors and, locally, as Sacramento Chapter President and Chairman of the Board of the California Division. He was the sole lay member of the National Research Review Committee, which approved all American Cancer Society research grants. In 1995, he received the American Cancer Society’s National Divisional Award. In 1996, was made an “Honorary Life Member” of both the National and California Boards of Directors of the American Cancer Society. Tom was named the 1998 Honorary Alumnus of California State University Sacramento.
Due to Tom’s kidney disease from serving in Vietnam, he was faced with a failing kidney. In 1995, Tom underwent a successful kidney transplant at UC Davis Medical Center, which gave Tom another lease on life to pursue his passions. His living donor was his soulmate and life partner, Pam, whom he’d met in 1988.
Tom decided to retire from the insurance business to join the UC Davis Health System as Assistant Dean of the Medical School and Assistant Director of the UC Davis Medical Center. His positions included management of the Health Sciences Advancement Department and the Public Affairs Department, duties that included production of the nationally syndicated “Pulse” television show.
During his five-year career with the health system, Tom was proud that gifts and contributions to the institution increased from $6,000,000 per year to over $15,000,000, and “planned gifts” for future gifting to the institution increased to over $60,000,000. Tom’s department created the $3,000,000-per-year Dean’s Research Fund for “jump starting” the scientific efforts of junior faculty, and the $41,000,000 state-funded “M.I.N.D. Institute” (Medical Investigation of Neuro-Developmental Disabilities), now recognized worldwide as a leader in the research and treatment of Autism and Autism Spectrum disorders. In addition, Tom coordinated the bio-medical research partnership between the UC Davis Cancer Center and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that developed the National Cancer Institute designated “Cancer Center” and numerous other projects.
Tom was a true adventurer. He loved the call of the mountains and was an Eagle Scout in his youth. He always said if it wasn’t for the skills he learned in the mountains, he would not have survived Vietnam. Tom absolutely loved strapping those boards on his feet and skiing. This was one of his greatest outdoor passions. He taught skiing at Squaw Valley for 22 years and continued skiing with Pam, friends and family by his side until his 78th birthday. He competed in three Winter World Transplant Games, for recipients of solid organ transplants. In 2001, he won a Silver Medal in the slalom in Nendaz, Switzerland in the 55-to-60 age group. He won another Silver Medal in the slalom race in Rovaniemi, Finland in 2007 in the over-60 class, beating the German and Austrian contenders.
Dame di Fino, his sailboat, moored at San Francisco’s Pier 39, provided a spiritual inner calling. He competed in the Doublehanded Farallones race, and loved nothing more than having family and friends aboard to experience the currents and tides of the San Francisco Bay. Tom loved his days and nights of backpacking and camping—and that means tent camping, not glamping! He only liked to be in places of peace and quiet where there weren’t many other people. The roar of the fire, s’mores sizzling, and a good poker game while drinking scotch gave him great joy, especially with his grandchildren. Tom and Pam planned yearly “adventures” with family and friends, but Tom especially loved their private exploration and adventures in places around the world, emphasizing ski trips.
When Tom retired from UC Medical Center, he and Pam remodeled their cabin on Donner Lake into their forever home. Tom rolled up his sleeves again with his passion and became a special advisor to the CEO of the Tahoe Forest Health System. He assisted in creating multiple relationships with UC Davis Health System. Tom, working with Pam, Dr. Larry Heifetz and staff, spent seven years strategically planning and finally helping to pass Measure C to build Truckee’s Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center. Tom and Pam were partners in this endeavor. They loved being instrumental in together building a legacy for their community. The Cancer Center was reviewed in the Journal of Oncology as a “National Model for Rural Cancer Care,” which was a great accomplishment that brought Tom a true sense of pride and joy.
Tom inspired the development of the preceptor training program for third- and fourth-year Medical Students from UC Davis Medical School Rural Prime Program. He helped Tahoe Forest become a recipient of “UC Davis Rural Center of Excellence” designation. He also served on the Hospital Foundation Board for four years.
Tom faced more medical issues. Pam’s kidney worked hard for 15 years before Tom was in need of a second transplant. Our community rose to the occasion and Hayley Adamski came forward to be tested for a match. Hayley, Tom’s and Pam’s angel, offered that second transplant, giving Tom what would be another 10 years of life.
Tom used this extra time wisely. He became the founder of the Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research, a nonprofit that develops solutions to medical issues common to practitioners and first responders in remote and rural areas.
Tom and Pam were honored by the Tahoe Forest Health System with a perpetual award for volunteerism created in their names. The Tom and Pam Hobday “Spirit of Giving Award” is now presented annually to a Tahoe Forest Health System Community Volunteer to recognize their service to the hospital.
Finally, Tom cared about how he made people feel. He was an amazing listener and inspired everyone to follow their hearts and dreams. Everyone just loved being in his presence. He was inclusive, and he coached and mentored many. This world is a better place because of Tom. He is dearly loved by family and friends. Tom is survived by his beloved wife Pam; his daughter Heather Griffin; son-in-law Anthony Griffin; three grandchildren: Tyler Griffin and wife, Natasha, Austin Griffin and Summer Griffin; his brother John Hobday; cousins, Craig Hobday and Patti Bena; his closest friend, Chris Ryman; family members Joe and Dea Mochnick, Mary and Chic Murray; and the dear friends in the communities in which he lived.
Please join the Hobday family in celebrating Tom’s life on Saturday, February 25th, 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Resort at Squaw Creek.
In September, 2018, a group led by Dr. Larry Heifetz, wanted to honor the central role Tom played in the transformation of Tahoe Forest Hospital into a national beacon of rural healthcare. Tom was honored with a medical lectureship named in his honor: The Thomas D. Hobday Medical Lectureship. The Lectureship is to provide cutting edge medical research to the community yearly. To celebrate Tom, his family asks that memorial donations be sent to the Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation’s Thomas Hobday Medical Lectureship Fund. To provide a gift in Tom’s name, visit tfhd.com/giving and click on Donate Now. Under Donor Designation, please indicate Thomas Hobday Medical Lectureship Fund. Thank you very much for your support and keeping Tom’s dream alive.
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