Thomas R. Bunch was born in Lime, Oregon in 1933. After he graduated from high school, he joined the US Air Force and served in the Korean War. One of the wise decisions he made while in the service was to marry Mildred Sterling in 1954. He was discharged from the Air Force in 1955 and with his new wife moved to Baker, Oregon.
Tom's commitment to conservation was manifested early. He worked for the Soil Conservation Service, now Natural Resources Conservation Service, from 1956 to 1961, first as a full time employee and then part time as he attended college. In 1957, Tom enrolled at Eastern Oregon State College in La Grande. In the fall of 1958, he transferred to Oregon State University and entered the Range Management program. Tom was an outstanding student but was never content to merely absorb what the instructors said and regurgitate it back to pass tests. Drawing upon his own experience, observations and natural curiosity, he frequently challenged his professors when he considered the information being presented to be illogical or incomplete. Tom was awarded a BS in Range Management in June 1961. Dr. Charles Poulton, Director, of the Range Management program during Tom's college days, has stated that Tom was one of the most challenging, appreciated and respected undergraduate students in Range Management that he encountered at OSU.
Following graduation from Oregon State University, Tom accepted a position with OSU as Grant County Extension Agent and moved with his family to John Day. Working with farmers and ranchers in Grant County stimulated his interest in conservation use and management of rangelands and related resources. Tom expressed his interest in graduate school, was offered an assistantship at OSU and in January 1963, moved his family back to Corvallis to begin his graduate studies. Following his interest in rangeland production and utilization, Tom's research evaluated forage production in east central Malheur County. He completed his graduate studies and was awarded a MS in Range Management in the spring of 1965.
Upon completion of the MS degree, Tom was appointed as Area Range Management Agent for the OSU Extension Service and was stationed in Bend, Oregon. In this position, he had the responsibility for range extension programs in several Central Oregon Counties. This included working with ranchers and various public agencies and institutions in projects involving rangeland improvement, management and use. He was instrumental in the development of sagebrush control and rangeland renegotiation programs on thousands of acres of both public and private rangelands. As a result of his contributions to the improvement, management and use of rangelands in Central Oregon in 1968, Tom received honorable mention for the Trail Boss Award from the Pacific Northwest Section of The Society for Range Management.
In 1970, Tom was appointed Chairman Extension Agent for Crook County, in Prineville, Oregon and assumed responsibilities for the OSU Extension program. While in this position, he helped establish the Soil and Water Conservation District in Crook County in 1972. In 1974, Tom successfully led the effort to establish the Crook County Extension Office Tax Base, the first in Oregon. Also during this period, Tom received training in aerial photography and satellite imagery interpretation from NASA and was a pioneer in applying remote sensing technology to rangeland management. He was a world authority on rangeland improvement and was frequently consulted on rangeland development programs in the United States and Africa. Based upon his technical expertise and leadership abilities Tom was selected by the US Agency for International Development in 1973, for a short-term assignment in Mali, West Africa. This assignment was to assist native stockmen, livestock producers, and government agencies develop and implement range management programs in the semi-arid area of Sahel. Once again, in 1982, Tom was selected by Oregon State University to provide his technical skill and range management expertise to a project in Tunisia, North Africa. This project improved Tunisian rangelands through a program of rangeland renegotiation and management and involved close working relationships with both governmental officials and Tunisian livestock producers. In 1986, Tom accepted the position of Chairman Extension Agent in Baker County, Oregon.
In recognition of his long term contribution to the people of Oregon and to the conservation, management and use of rangelands and related resources he received the first "Career of Excellence in Rangeland Management" award from the Oregon State University, Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management.
Tom and Mildred had three sons. He was dedicated to his family and to his career. He was a man of vision with a love for the land. Tom had few peers that understood the proper care, use and management of rangelands and related resources a well as he did. His primary hobbies, which he pursued with the same enthusiasm as his work, were hunting and fishing. In May of 1989, Tom retired from his long and fruitful career to be able to spend more time with Mildred and to travel new trails he had not yet explored. Tom died suddenly in June 1989. He was a legend in his lifetime. He is missed by his relatives, friends and colleagues.
It is hoped that receipt of this scholarship will provide stimulation and assistance to a worthy student, who like Tom, is dedicated to the conservation, management, and use of rangelands and related resources.