Thomas Eugene Nyquist was born June 20, 1931 at home on a wheat farm and cattle ranch homesteaded by his parents, northeast of Froid, Montana. He lived through the Depression and the Dust Bowl, rode a horse to the one-room Hammond country grade school, and graduated valedictorian of a class of seven in town.
He had big dreams, and headed to college planning to major in journalism. But after serving in the army on Okinawa during the Korean Conflict, and traveling to Japan and Taiwan, he returned to study political science at Macalester College in Minnesota. There he met his bride and subsequent wife of nearly 63 years, Corinne, who was studying International Relations. He went on for a Masters at the University of Montana, Missoula, worked two years as a social worker, then finished with a PhD in African Studies at Northwestern University in Illinois.
Tom pursued his PhD research in rural Sudan during its civil war, with wife and kids in tow. After graduation, a Fulbright Scholarship took them to Apartheid South Africa for 18 months. The family moved to New Paltz, NY in 1968 where Tom became a professor of African Studies at the State University of NY in New Paltz, and later an administrator at SUNY Central in grants development.
Tom had a strong desire for a life of meaning lived for society and mankind. He served on then chaired the New Paltz Village Planning Board and the New Paltz Police Commission, was elected to the Ulster County Legislature and the New Paltz Village Board becoming Deputy Mayor, Acting Mayor, then elected Mayor for four four-year terms.
As Mayor he was concerned with infrastructure, but also livability. He oversaw construction of miles of beautiful brick and stone sidewalks, and brought into being three of the four current village parks: Hasbrouck Park, Sojourner Truth Park, and the Rail Trail. He maintained his international interests by forming a sister city relationship with Niimi/Osa, Japan, and by hosting a delegation from the USSR. He expanded and developed the Peace Park.
Tom also served on the boards of the YMCA, Ulster Performing Arts Center, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, Historic Huguenot Street, and was a member of Rotary International and the Paltz Club. On the Board of the International Partnership for Service Learning he and Corinne traveled to the Czech Republic, Ecuador, England, Jamaica, Mexico and the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota. Tom and Corinne were founding members, and on the Executive of the New York African Studies Association, and Tom co-edited its newsletter for nearly 50 years.
In (semi)retirement Tom authored a subscription newsletter on grant opportunities for community colleges which he transitioned to a free on-line newsletter he maintained until he was 87 years old.
He and family formed the Tom and Corinne Nyquist Foundation in 2004 using the yearly income off the inherited wheat farm in Montana to give small grants to deserving charitable groups in New Paltz and the Froid area which have included funding for benches, gardens, trails, theatre, archery, books, and less sexy necessaries like copy machines, doors and roofs. It also funds scholarships and an essay contest in Montana.
When a small oil lease on the Montana property came to fruition, Tom and Corinne used proceeds to purchase the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary in New Paltz which Tom maintained nearly single-handedly for the good of the people of New Paltz and the satisfaction of a job well done. He took his last walk to check the sanctuary the day he died.
Finally, Tom was a wonderful family man known to brag about his kids and granddaughters to any listener, and who called his brothers and cousins at least weekly.
Tom is survived by his wife Corinne (Johnson) Nyquist, son Jonathan Nyquist (Laura Toran), daughter Lynn Nyquist (John Nyquist), and granddaughters Amy, Jenna, Katie and Megan. He was pre-deceased by his brothers Dick Nyquist (Fran) of Detroit, and Bob Nyquist (Ruth) of Bainville, MT, and his parents Richard and Lydia (Billie) Nyquist.
Memorial Services will be Sat., Dec. 28 at 4:30 pm at the Reformed Church, 92 Huguenot St., New Paltz, followed by a reception in the Fireside Room in the church’s Education Center. The service will be preceded by an open house at Tom and Corinne’s home at 140 Huguenot St. from 2-4 pm that afternoon. Food or beverages to share are welcome at both events. An internment Service will be held July 18, 2020 in Froid, MT.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Nyquist Foundation/Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary, Historic Huguenot Street, or the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. Donations may be made directly, mailed to or dropped off with Corinne Nyquist at home, or left in envelopes which will be provided at the church.