September 13, 2002 - Santa Barbara Magazine: A Profile of Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe
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September 13, 2002 - Santa Barbara Magazine: A Profile of Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe
A Profile of Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe
Read and comment on this story from the Santa Barbara Magazine on Thailand RPCV and former Peace Corps Chief of Staff Thomas Tighe at:
A Snapshot of the Tighe Family’s*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
A Snapshot of the Tighe Family’s
by Nansie Chapman
When I arrived at the Tighe family residence in Montecito a couple of weeks ago, I was greeted at the front door by the smell of freshly made coffee and 2-year-old Megan, who handed me a small plastic container that housed her favorite Disney video. Out back, where the photoshoot was to take place, I could see a couple of young lads darting back and forth past the window and a ball of fluff named Tucker, the latest addition to the family. Tucker, who is a golden retriever, was attacking an avocado seed that was nearly as big he is, in a fashion that can only be duplicated by the wise ways of a two-month-old puppy.
Dad Thomas, whom I had met at Direct Relief International a few weeks earlier, was all smiles and warmth and gave me a tour of their home, a beautiful ranch-style dwelling resembling homes built in the 50s, which had been partially renovated by the previous owners. It opened to a large backyard... the perfect environment for a family of six + puppy and cat.
When Mom, Carrie, arrived on the scene, I could see immediately why Thomas used the words, “she radiated a genuine beauty, kindness and honesty that bowled me over,” when referring to how they met.
Flashback to the early 1980s in Palo Alto, when Thomas was 19 and Carrie was 16. Thomas had played little league with Carrie’s older brother years earlier, but it wasn’t until he was in college and Carrie was still in high school that they formally met. The attraction was immediate. According to Carrie, “Thomas had a bit of an intriguing reputation in our little town,” but it was his humor, intellect and compassion to make a positive impact on our planet that won her heart.
When Carrie graduated from high school she went to UC Berkeley where she received her degree. Thomas was already in college, but took a different path. His father, who was a West Point graduate and career officer, was killed in Vietnam in 1967 when Thomas was only six years of age. His mom raised four kids after losing her husband in what was considered an unpopular war. This clearly had an effect on Thomas’s life choices. After he finished college and law school, he joined the Peace Corps and moved to Thailand where he taught school in a rural town. Carrie joined him after she graduated from college and taught with him on a volunteer basis.
Several years later, Thomas returned to the United States and accepted a position as a committee lawyer in the U.S. Senate, which was intensely policy-focused on healthcare, mental health, homelessness and U.S. foreign assistance programs. He was later appointed Associate General Counsel of the Peace Corps and, after two years, was named Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer of the Peace Corp’s worldwide operations. After Thailand, Carrie returned to her hometown in Palo Alto.
While Thomas was working in D.C., (initially for the Senate and later five additional years with the Peace Corps), Carrie was developing her career in commercial real estate, and managing projects in Palo Alto. A year later she joined her future husband in D.C. where she continued to develop her career. Ironically, the firm with whom she worked in Palo Alto, made its mark by bringing Santa Barbara architecture to downtown Palo Alto.
In 1992, while living in Washington D.C., and after a 12-year courtship, they were married. Whew, that’s one long courtship! Carrie continued to work until their first son, Travis, was born a year later. And then came Andrew, and then Griffin and then... Carrie and Thomas on their Wedding Day.
When Direct Relief International, headquartered here in Santa Barbara, put out a notice that they were looking for a new President and CEO, Thomas’s experience made him the perfect candidate for accepting the position. So the hunt for a house began. They moved into their new residence in Santa Barbara, a house they had never seen, just three weeks after their daughter Megan was born. Their oldest son, Travis, had just started first grade in Virginia, (often a very traumatic time for young developing minds) and what about five-year-old Andrew, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, (a challenging neurological disorder) and three-year-old Griffin? Hum, some major concerns, to say the least. But the transition was made and with lots of adjustments, new friends and faces, they were excited about the opportunities that moving to Santa Barbara afforded them.
So, what’s it like living in a typical school day sitcom with four young kids only a couple of years apart? How does a stay-at-home mom manage her family? Carrie gets up around 6:30 in the morning and steals a half-hour for herself. Then the energy level and excitement of the morning begins. First coffee to kick-start the adults, and breakfast is made while the kids are aroused and assisted with going through their visual checklist (a series of reminders of what needs to be accomplished before leaving the house). Clothes and shoes need to be selected and put on, hair gets combed, breakfast gets consumed, teeth get brushed and out the door for the older two that get dropped off at school by dad. Carrie meanwhile tends to the younger two, which also includes special attention to 4-year-old Griffin, who has delays in gross motor development, requiring extra care. Juggling pickups from school, after-school programs and activities, and individual quality time, all have to be fit into the daily schedule (now I know how she stays so thin).
Thomas does all the yard work, helps with minor repairs and even does endless amounts of laundry... hip-hip-hurray for the modern integrated, unspoiled male! Meanwhile, after he goes off to work, Carrie (who doesn’t have any domestic help) tends to household chores, her younger two children’s needs and new puppy (I guess when you are used to several years of diapers and poop, a new puppy is a walk in the park).
On weekends, Thomas takes his boys on field trips while Carrie spends quality time with Megan. They aim for 2-hour modules for family outings to the zoo, kids’ world, the Museum of Natural History and making sure meals and naps are included. Almost every weekend time is put aside for jaunts to the beach where dad can wrestle with his kids in the sand and Tucker can dream about chasing seagulls when he gets to be a bigger “man’s best friend.”
Life continues to offer up many joys and challenges for the Tighe family, who, if you happen to be in their neighborhood, will find practicing what has become early-evening family rituals: a trip around the block on bikes, trikes, scooters and strollers before baths or showers, reading, and then books-on-tapes to fall asleep. The picture may take you back to early childhood when life was sweet, innocent and full of wonderful things to come. Yes, we all have warm memories in our lives that become the foundation for our future passions and dreams. The Tighe family reminds me of what those special moments are.
Thomas Tighe was named president and CEO of Direct Relief International in October 2000.
Under the leadership of Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief International had record-breaking results in 2001, providing international emergency assistance with a total wholesale value of $81.5 million. This material assistance was sufficient to provide care for 10.5 million people in 60 countries including response to the catastrophic earthquakes of India and El Salvador, and the Afghanistan refugee crisis. Direct Relief International, headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, was also recognized by two important publications in 2001. Worth Magazine included Direct Relief International on its list of 100 Best Charities for 2001 and was also ranked the 165th largest non-profit organization in the United States, based on private support, by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Tighe came to Direct Relief International from the Peace Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C., where he served as Chief-of-Staff and Chief Operating Officer from 1995 -2000. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps' worldwide operations, involving more than 7,000 volunteers in 72 countries and an annual budget of $250 million.
During that period, the Peace Corps experienced a resurgence of interest and growth to the highest volunteer levels in 27 years. He negotiated agreements to establish new programs in South Africa, China, and Bangladesh, and directed a revamping of the agency's organizational structure and business systems. In 1998, Congress recognized the improvements and approved for the first time ever a 4-year authorization for the Peace Corps to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 volunteers. Tighe traveled to 40 countries, including China in connection with the Presidential Summit in 1998 and the trip of the Vice President To South Africa in 1995, during which bilateral agreements to establish Peace Corps programs were signed.
Tighe also served two years as Associate General Counsel of the Peace Corps under Director Carol Bellamy, now Executive Director of UNICEF, handling the legislative and funding issues, international agreements, health and employment issues.
From 1989 to 1993, Tighe served as a committee counsel in the United States Senate, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, where he was responsible for policy issues related to veterans' mental-health care, special disability programs, drug and alcohol treatment, and services for homeless veterans. Appointed by then Chairman Alan Cranston, Tighe also handled collateral duties related to foreign aid and the Peace Corps.
Tighe was raised in Palo Alto, California, is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.C. Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Thailand, after completing law school and being admitted to the California State Bar, from 1986-1988.
Tighe is married to Carrie Cresap Tighe, also from Palo Alto, and they have four children.
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