Roanoke College officer honored for campus safety service
Salem, Va.-Tom Turner is the face of safety at Roanoke College.
He took the helm as director of the college's campus safety department in 1983, soon after he graduated from Roanoke with a criminal justice major as an adult student.
Since then, the Botetourt County native and former Roanoke City police officer has become known as an expert in his field, not only in the region but statewide. Turner was one of four Virginia college law enforcement administrators, representing the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, to meet with a governor's commission to review safety procedures in the months following the 2007 fatal shootings at Virginia Tech. The tragedy put a spotlight on the role of campus safety officers nationwide.
Turner also has helped write standards for the state's campus safety personnel, including a mandate that all become certified through specified training. He teaches some of those courses.
This month, Turner won praise for his 28 years of safety work. He received the Robert C. Dillard Outstanding Contribution to Campus Law Enforcement Award. This is the highest honor given by the VACLEA, a professional group that represents the state's private and public colleges and universities.
The award, named for the retired police chief at the University of Richmond and one of Turner's mentors, recognizes a collegiate law enforcement leader for contributions to the field statewide.
"Tom is someone that everyone looks to for advice on the things of our business," said Michael Young, director of public safety at Washington & Lee University who nominated Turner for the award. "We don't reinvent the wheel every day. Most of us have the same basic problems. Tom is always a good source of information."
Turner's list of contributions to Virginia's campus safety landscape also includes helping to craft a statewide guide for 27 best safety practices for colleges and universities. But significant national events in the past 10 years, from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the Virginia Tech shootings, have altered the way that Turner and campus law enforcement across the country do business. Safety standards are tighter and new responses are in place, from changes in ways that Roanoke College identifies and helps students in emotional distress to the creation of Maroon Alerts, a text-messaging system.
Turner has been at the forefront of much of this evolution.
"I've tried to serve where I could," he said.
Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as one of the "Best 376 Colleges" in its 2012 guidebook, which includes the top nine percent of colleges, and U.S. News & World Report ranks Roanoke the number seven "Up-and-coming National Liberal Arts College."
- Public Relations