Remembering Tom


Tom Zbyszewski, a rising junior from Carlton, Washington, was among three U.S. Forest Service firefighters killed in a vehicle crash on the night of Wednesday, August 19th.

Zybszewski was fighting wildfires for his second summer as part of a five-person Forest Service engine crew. The vehicle crash occurred near Twisp, Washington when the fire overtook the vehicle he was driving in.

At Whitman, Zybszewski was a physics major and lived in Lyman House. He was also active in the theater community and had roles in numerous Harper Joy productions last year, including Three Tall Women and the One Act Play Festival.

In lieu of flowers, Zybszewski’s parents have requested that donations be made in his memory to Harper Joy Theatre.

A memorial service for the Whitman community will be held this Sunday at 1pm in Harper Joy. This event is closed to the public. The Office of Religious & Spiritual Life is also creating a space of remembrance in the Physics wing of the Science Building, for students to reflect on Zybszewski’s influence on campus.


Tom loved Whitman.  From his first day on campus, he found his new home, and every friendship he  made enriched his life.  We will always be grateful to all his friends, acquaintances, professors, and all  the staff members.  Our lives feel empty at this time, but just thinking about Whitman helps us  remember his unbridled excitement for his classes, and the deep, meaningful friendships and love he  found there.  Whitman is a special place, and Whitman students will help light the way in this world.   We’re proud that Tom was among your ranks.  His spirit will always be there.
With love and appreciation,
Richard and Jennifer Zbyszewski
I don’t even know what to say, but I still remember last semester in Chinese class, when Tom was telling me all about Twisp and his firefighting training and his plans for the summer. I’ll always remember Tom as the best speaker in our class–and the most entertaining to listen to–because he always brought his theatre training to even just mimicking the characters in our textbook. He was easy-going, light-hearted, and fun, even for morning classes. RIP Tom. Needless to say, we will miss you.

-Lauren Benedict, ’17


Here’s to one of our own, to someone who kept the heart and spirit of Whitman alive always. Your Whitman family will remember you. Love from us all, and to his family.

-Katherine Lee ’15


I am so devastated to hear that one of the most amazing people whom I’ve ever known has left us too soon. Tom you were so smart, kind, and amazing. You were always such an incredible friend to me – even when everything got bad. It hurts all of us that you’re no longer here anymore. My thoughts and best wishes go out to Max and your family. I’ll see you on the other side buddy. Love you.

-Libby Edwards ’18


Thank you Tom for being the best roommate a guy could have. You truly were an amazing friend.

-Michael Valente ’17


Tom, you will always be a great human being, an amazing actor, an incredible student, a friend, a hero, a physics genius, and my Mushroom King. I will eternally wait for the day that we, mushrooms will take over the world. You will be missed, hugs and love from your Brazilian friend.

Lud de Brito ’18


“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.” Rest in peace Tom Zbyszewski, you beautiful B-sec’er.

-Nate Higby ’15


Tom and I shared the same floor and had a class together our first year, so we naturally would run into each other a lot. As newbies on campus, we were timid but social, mostly because we needed to be in order to make friends. So, I didn’t think much of our casual introduction in the first weeks of school. We asked each other all of the boring questions: What is your name? Potential major? Interested in going Greek? So on and so forth. Since we were asking hundreds of people these questions the first few weeks, I was sure that Tom would forget my information, and see me as just another new face in this new place. But I found out Tom was different. After meeting me, Tom made a conscious effort to smile and wave to me from anywhere on campus. He remembered my name and my interests, and I knew that he truly cared about what I had to say. He truly listened. Tom was one of the most genuine, good-hearted people that I knew on campus. He was always smiling, and he made Whitman better by being so enthusiastic to be a Whittie. He made such a positive impression on me, and we were only buddies that occasionally walked to class together. I can only imagine how good of a son, friend, and student he was. Tom is truly an amazing soul that will be missed.

-Taylor Bernston ’17
I worked with Tom Zbyszewski on Three Tall Women this spring, and he was among the most agreeable and easy-going performers I’ve worked with. He committed seriously to the show, and though his character did not have any lines, he gave a great performance without saying a word. I gained a deep respect for him as an actor during this play. Even more importantly, though, Tom was truly kind-hearted and easy to talk to. He was supportive of his friends, took a genuine interest in the people around him, and was an all-around positive presence in the theater department. Although he and I weren’t especially close, I will always consider him a friend and I will miss him dearly.
-Natalie Berg, ’16

I sat next to Tom in Encounters for our entire first year. He always had such insightful, intelligent things to contribute to the class discussion, always said hi to me when I sat next to him, asked how I was doing. I never had another class with him, but we always waved at each other in passing, and I attended many of his theater performances. These aren’t very significant memories, but they mean something to me; he was a lovely individual who brought just a little more light to my life.

-Hillary Smith, ’17