For Sue and Dr. Andy Tatom ’78, it was love at first sight some 40 years ago — for each other, and for Lynchburg.
The couple met on campus on Valentine’s Day 1978, when Sue was visiting her brother and Andy’s classmate, Bill Bodine ’78. She soon transferred to Lynchburg from East Tennessee State. Sue and Andy got engaged on Valentine’s Day 1979 and married in 1980 in Snidow Chapel.
“We love Lynchburg,” Sue said.
Today, they have three adult sons. Their youngest, Matthew, graduated from Lynchburg in 2017. This fall, the Tatoms established a scholarship in his honor.
The Sue and Andy Tatom Endowed Scholarship will be given to University of Lynchburg students in good academic standing who have a disability, preferably a learning disability.
“Sue and Andy are the quintessential Lynchburg couple and this scholarship gift truly reflects the heart they have for the place, the students, and their education,” said Dr. Mike Bonnette, vice president for advancement. “We truly appreciate their continued commitment to the University of Lynchburg through their time, talent, and treasure.”
As a physical therapist, Andy says he has a “soft spot” in his heart for students with disabilities — and because of his own experience, learning disabilities in particular. Both he and Matthew are dyslexic and have some other learning disabilities, and both benefited from Lynchburg’s tremendous support system.
“I came down to Lynchburg as a freshman from New York,” Andy said. “For me, it was how the professors, even back then, helped me out. Their ability to take the time and make the extra effort more than 40 years ago to help someone — and I was trying, but I was really struggling. But they were able to get me through it. I didn’t learn how to study, really, until I got to Lynchburg.”
Being a student at Lynchburg was great all around, Andy said, because he was able to succeed in multiple areas — academics, sports, theater, clubs, student government.
“People took an interest and the faculty really cared,” he said. “That’s the type of thing I want people to understand, and why we want to support a scholarship that will help folks with disabilities — because depending on how you look at it, it can either be a hindrance, or it can be an amazing opportunity.
“For me, I wouldn’t trade being dyslexic for anything because of a lot of what I learned here at the school.”
Andy said he also wants people to understand that how they “respond to the cards they’ve been dealt” is up to them. “They can be very positive or they can be very negative. And Lynchburg can make it positive.”
Now a partner at Rehab Associates of Central Virginia and secretary on the University of Lynchburg Board of Trustees, Andy has managed to turn those obstacles into opportunities, thanks in large part to the help he received as an undergrad.
Son Matthew, the Tatoms said, felt the same support when he first toured campus as a high school junior. “He saw what the possibilities were for him and he didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Sue said. “This is where he wanted to come. He loved it.”
Establishing a scholarship in his honor felt like the perfect way to give back to a school that has been “family,” and that has given so much to them, they added.
“My hope is that [the scholarship] will continue to empower students who typically had a harder row to hoe. That they’ve made it to a university-level education shows they’ve already succeeded,” Andy said.
“But this is designed to help them continue to succeed. And they’ve got a lot of things on their plate. They’ve got to study longer. Things don’t usually come as easy. It might be more difficult to get around, or things are more difficult, so if we can help them financially to take some of the stress off so they can put their energies into their education, I think that’s just a wonderful gift.”