Thomas Riddle

Academic and Career Accomplishments

Tom Riddle’s life was forever changed in 1967, when his 10th grade English teacher assigned a chapter of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, or Life in the Woods. Tom was moved by it and decided that he too, wanted a “life in the woods.” Fortunately, his parents owned some unused wooded land outside of Ravenna where he built a crude shelter and spent the entire summer. The adventure and simplicity of that summer have shaped his life ever since.

The Ravenna woods proved to be good training when, in 1974, Tom joined the US Peace Corps and was sent to teach English in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga, where he stayed for four years. In 1980, the U.S. State Department hired him as a teacher and curriculum developer in one of the refugee camps that had been set up in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. One of his projects, a collection of annotated letters sent to refugees in the camps from their friends and family in the USA, was later published as the book Writing Back. His experience in the refugee camps was instrumental in getting him a full scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which led to his receiving a master’s degree in Anthropology in 1989.

Shortly after that, the United Nations sent him to Cambodia where he spent 18 months working as a computer specialist helping to bring peace to that war-torn country. His book about that time, Cambodia and the Year of UNTAC, has been called the definitive account of what was up to that time the largest U.N. operation ever. In 2000, he started working in Asia as an independent film-maker. Since then he has made movies about everything from fresh drinking water in Laos to the history of the Ravenna Flagpole. As of 2018, he is still making movies around the world, both for the adventure of it and for the simple joy of doing a small service for humanity.

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