Your father owned a very successful Advertising company in Columbus and lived in Grandview, a suburb of Columbus just down the street from OSU. So you were born and raised in Grandview and graduated from Grandview High School in 1950. You enrolled in The Ohio State University that same year. You had the unique experience of attending the same University your grandparents and father attended and your grandparents graduated in 1906 which was close to the very beginning of the University and a time when there were only 2 buildings on our campus.
Your grandfather, also Tom Wheeler, had the distinction of helping to dig Mirror Lake and your grandson is the fifth generation to attend OSU. So you are clearly a “diehard” Buckeye.
It was this background that led to your accomplishments in the business world and you philanthropic efforts in retirement.
After a problematic pledging at another fraternity, you realized most of your friends were Sig Eps and you joined Ohio Gamma your sophomore year. You were at Ohio State in a strange time when football was not “King” and you were part of a group to hang football coach Carroll Widdoes in effigy. This led to the hiring of Woody Hayes and our first Rose Bowl. So, it might seem you helped put us on the map as a football school with your effigy prank!
Your leadership quickly became apparent as 1952 Rush Chairman where you brought in the largest recruiting class to date and became chapter president in 1953.
At OSU it seems you were on every committee there was. You were Junior Class President, a member of B.I.E., Alpha Phi Mu (Industrial Engineering Honorary Society), American Institute of Industrial Engineers, Council of Fraternity Presidents, Fraternity Affairs Office (Treasurer), Greek Week, IFC-Panhellenic Conference (C0-Chair), Interfraternity Commission, MAKIO (Sophomore Editor) , May week, OSPA (Campaign Chairman), Society Of American Military, Scabbard and Blade, Scarlet Mask, Senior Class Cabinet, Strollers, Student Life Conference (Chairman), Student Senate and Texnikoi.
Upon receiving your degree, you served in the Army Corp of Engineers as a 1st Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957
With your military discharge and a degree in Industrial engineering in hand, you applied and were accepted to graduate school at Harvard, MIT and The Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania. While Harvard accepted you, they were full. MIT accepted you but failed to tell you, and that left the Wharton School which not only told you but were not full. So, with a part time job in Engineering at Westinghouse, off you went to the Wharton School for your Masters. You completed your Master’s degree in 18 months but were disappointed in your first Ivy League football game where only about 5000 attended versus the large crowds at OSU!
After the Wharton School, trucking companies became interested in adding Industrial Engineers to their staff and you landed a job at a trucking company that wanted you to turn around a Chicago terminal that had never been profitable. Under your leadership and only 2 years later, they became profitable.
That success led you to the A. T. Carney company, a transport consulting company, and you were one of only 11 Industrial Engineers in the entire Trucking Industry.
Your “Big Break” came in 1967 when you joined the United Parcel Service or UPS as it is now known. In 1967 UPS was a fairly large company but not well known and 1967 was the beginning of some fantastic growth years. You spent 12 years overseeing the Industrial Engineering department before being named to manage the Corporate Real Estate Department for the next 15 years.
It is interesting to note that during your time at UPS, the company’s stock split 19 times and averaged growth of 17% per year over those 27 years. So both you and UPS were doing something right!
Giving back to the University was always a strong desire. So in honor of your father, you and your mother made a donation to the Business School to establish the Thomas Wheeler Jr. Lecture Hall in Gerlach Hall which has become a cornerstone of the Fisher College of Business.
Because of your own career and the business of your father, you have always been interested in small companies and their development. You were also interested in developing students in that field. But you did not wish to merely give money, you wanted to provide guidance to these students and to be active in their development. These interests led you to endow $2.5 million dollars to establish the Thomas L. Wheeler, III Internship for small business. Working with the assistant dean of the OSU business school, the internship provides $50,000 annually for student internships in small businesses and has become so successful that there are more small businesses looking for these interns than there are students!
You have 4 children and 10 grandchildren and now reside in Silverthorne, Colorado, where you serve as the Director of the Silverthorne Historical Society. Your daughter, Julia O-Hickey, is here with you tonight.
For your accomplishments and your passion and dedication to contributing to The Ohio State University and development of the young men and women who are served by your internship, we are honored to present you with the 2017 George E. Smith Distinguished Alumni Award.