Scattered around the country — and the world — are thousands of people who share the bond of being Winters High School alumni. Whether their life paths have kept them close, or taken them far, they share that Warrior spirit. Tom Reynolds is one such alumnus who is set to retire from his position as dean at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Graduate School.
Reynold’s path to Winters wasn’t direct, however. When his father retired from the Army, the family settled in Carmel. In kindergarten, Reynolds’ parents split and he moved to Illinois with his brother and mother to be closer to her side of the family. Then, in 1964, it was decided they’d move back to California where Reynold’s mother became a teacher at Waggoner Elementary School in a little town called Winters. Reynolds himself entered his junior year of high school as the ‘new kid’ at WHS.
“I was only there at WHS my junior and senior year, but my friend Tom Duncan and my wife had gone through kindergarten together all the way through high school. I was coming into a class of 65 students, and I was the new kid as a junior, but everybody knew who I was,” Reynolds explained.
In Reynold’s experience at WHS, he played the drums and won the Bank of America award in the Fine Arts as well as winning the Youth Day Talent Show with his drum solo. Following high school, Reynolds spent time serving our country.
“After I graduated high school I spent a year at the Monterey Peninsula College. I dropped out and joined the Navy for four years starting in 1968. I spent two tours in Vietnam on a Navy patrol gunboat. I got back in January of 1972 and got married to my wife, Claudia in February,” said Reynolds.
After getting married, Reynolds went on to get his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Chico. From there, this wondering Warrior and his wife headed to Ohio State where Reynolds would obtain his Ph.D. in 1982. The Reynolds’ eastward journey wasn’t yet complete, however, as a job at the University of Charlotte was waiting for Tom in North Carolina.
“I landed a position as an assistant professor of biology and worked my way up through the ranks and became a full professor in 1992. Then an opportunity to be associate dean at the graduate school came up. I applied and to my utter amazement, I was selected,” Reynolds speaking about his multiple decades as dean. “My wife and I love it here, we’ve met people we really like and didn’t plan on leaving here until I retire. There’s four seasons and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Even after decades of hard work, success and education that’s taken him around the world and across the country, Reynolds still attributes much of his passion and drive to the little town of Winters.
“When I graduated from high school, if anybody told me I’d be a dean one day I would have told them they were crazy. It’s like I tell my students here, keep your options open. You never know what opportunities will be available,” said Reynolds. “Even though I only spent a couple of years in Winters, I really believe that I grew up there. There’s something about the connection of the community that I’d never experienced in my entire life up until that point and it was formative.”
To the class of 2023 from a member of the class of 1966, Reynolds recommends future graduates to simply enjoy the experience and be thankful for growing up in a community like Winters.
Where Are They Now is a new feature series where the Express puts a spotlight on a Winters alumni. The only requirement is that the interviewee is a graduate of a high school in Winters. If you would like to share your after-high school story, send an email to email@example.com.