Tom Sudderth

Tom Sudderth’s official title is landscape installation supervisor, but he has been compared to a painter who uses campus as a canvas, and the colors of nature as his palette.

Sudderth is too humble to take such a fancy notion to heart, yet he is grateful that people think so highly of him – highly enough to include that description in nominating him for a C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award that he won in 2011.

“I became a fan of Carolina in 1957 when I was 8 years old, sitting on a little stool in my daddy’s den, watching the national championship game that went into triple overtime,” Sudderth said. “I remember when they won, I fell off the stool.”

He has been a part of Carolina since he began work here in 1984. He traces the path that led him to this line of work to the green thumb of his grandmother, who would invite him out to work in her yard in Greensboro whenever Sudderth’s family visited.

“She was a natural,” Sudderth said. “She had no formal training, but I think she could make a dead stick grow.

As for being compared to a painter, Sudderth said there are similarities, but real differences, too – primarily because it takes plants much longer to grow to maturity than it takes paint to dry.

That’s where Sudderth uses his ability to envision what plants will look like years from now.

And, he likes working on a living canvas that always changes. “What that means is that our work is never complete,” he said.

“One of the most exciting things for our crew members to do after they have finished a project is to go back and watch people using it,” Sudderth said. “Seeing people enjoying the results of our labor is the best way we can tell we are doing our jobs right.”

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