Thomas Slack

Thomas Slack

For Tom Slack, becoming a communicator was an "on the job" learning experience made possible with the help of four mentors. One of them also invited him to the Religious Communications Congress '90 in Nashville, Tenn.

Ordained an elder in the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1974, the Marion, Ohio, native was pastoring a congregation when he became involved with the conference communications committee and met his first mentor – Bob Storey, editor of the conference newspaper. When Storey died suddenly in 1988, Slack was asked whether he would be willing to keep the newspaper going.

"Ed Maynard took me under his wing," Slack recalled, and advised him to read four books on journalism. Maynard, a journalist and editor, had retired from United Methodist Communications in 1984.

During his first six months, Maynard would send him a three-page, single-spaced typewritten letter of suggestions after each edition of the conference newspaper was published.

"He was gentle, but he was really blunt," Slack said. "Sadly, I did not save all of those." He does however, have Maynard's last missive, which said he had learned enough and could continue on his own.

Two photographer mentors, John Goodwin of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications, helped him become proficient with a camera – so proficient that many people think of him as a photographer first, writer second.

Slack's interfaith connections started at the local level when he joined the Miami Valley chapter of the Religious Public Relations Council in 1989. "RCC showed me a wider world than The United Methodist Church," he explained.

An example of that exposure beyond Methodism occurred when Slack arrived early for the 1994 national convention in Birmingham, Ala., to help with the meeting organization. When he wandered into the mall attached to the hotel, looking for something to eat, he met some fellow members who were Krishna. "We found a place where everybody could eat and we sat there and talked and talked and talked," he said. When he left the board, Slack suggested one of those friends, Anuttama Dasa, take his place.

Slack served on the RCC governing board from 1991-96 and edited the fifth edition of the religious public relations handbook published in 1995. He left church journalism in 2006 and officially retired as a pastor on July 1, 2012, but has taught online communication courses for Kaplan University since 2001 and still takes photographs – with a digital Leica D-Lux 2 small enough to drop into his pocket.

He and his wife, Carolyn, reside in Columbus near their son, Jonathan, his wife, Angie, and grandson, Wyatt. Their daughter, Beth, lives in New York City.

 
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