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A Proper Send-off

Tom Carr celebrates retirement with 300 of his closest meats friends.


We spent this past Saturday in Champaign, at the annual University of Illinois judging team reunion and Tom Carr retirement celebration. It was a fun day, a chance to catch up with old friends and give a proper send-off to Dr. Carr, who's retiring this August following 36 years as the meats authority and meats judging coach at the U of I (

The man is legendary for his ability to stay in touch with former students, and to routinely connect with them personally over the years. And let me just tell you, 300 people showed up to wish him well at his retirement. TC, as he's known most affectionately, created a legacy of knowledge, faith, respect, loyalty and teamwork among his students and meats judging teams. His colleague, Doug Parrett, pointed out that with four national championships and 26 first or second place wins at major contests, Dr. Carr had compiled a record that, were he in an NCAA sport, would've earned him a much better salary. It was heartwarming to see so many people show up to honor his life and career. He was honored, humbled and blessed. And quite frankly, there aren't many people in this world who get to receive such an outpouring; more typically, it happens at a funeral.

A good share of the folks who stepped up to the microphone to toast/roast Dr. Carr couldn't help but mention his pet phrases, among them, "Judas Priest, Martha," or, "that'll go over like a pregnant pole-vaulter." Or his frequent use of the word "sucker," in just about any instance. But the line of the day went to one of his former graduate students, who rattled off a Top 10 list of things he'd learned from Dr. Carr. Among them: "I learned 500 ways to almost swear!" The crowd roared. He'd nailed TC exactly.

My own life became intertwined with Dr. Carr's not in the usual way. I never took a meats class (though I should have), I never joined the meats judging team (definitely should have at least considered it), and I wasn't even in animal sciences. But over the course of my college career, I had a lot of good friends who did all those things. Through Genny Brashear and Rachel Strode, I heard many a TC story. My husband, John, did all those things as well, and shared plenty about Dr. Carr. And somehow, over the years, though I was little more to him than a friend, girlfriend and eventually spouse of his judging team members, he welcomed me into his meats family. I could run into him on the street at the State Fair and he would instantly know who I was and would commence to catching up with me and each of our friends in common. It's been good to be part of the family.

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