A Hoosier RT Legend has Passed

by Janet Sievers, RRT

The Respiratory Care Community has suffered a great loss with the passing of our colleague, Thomas E. Konkle. Despite fighting the good fight for over three years, long after many of us would have surrendered, Tom succumbed to the chronic health conditions that took his life July 29, 2017. Tom is survived by his wife Patricia (Pat) Dyer Konkle, whom he married in 1970, his two daughters Angela and Julie Konkle and one brother Mike Konkle and his wife Andrea.

Thomas Konkle

Tom’s home town was Fort Wayne, Indiana where he spent many hours on the lake; he regaled us with boyhood tales of playing ice hockey, swimming and fishing. Tom enjoyed fishing well into adulthood and walleye was his favorite target. Tom demonstrated his love of family, was an avid reader, enjoyed the Godfather movies, and the music of the Beach Boys. He loved Indiana University, but especially IU basketball.

Tom was a proud alumnus of IU where he received his B.A. in 1970, majoring in Anatomy & Physiology and minoring in Chemistry and Physics. He was enrolled in Graduate School at I.U. majoring in Cardio- pulmonary Physiology when he made the decision to move into the rapidly emerging field of Respiratory Therapy. It is apropos that Tom would begin this part of his career at the very place where our profession first emerged as Inhalation Therapy back in 1943 and where the Inhalation Therapy Association (ITA) was formed in 1946 at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Tom enrolled in their School of Respiratory Therapy and in 1973 and received his diploma in Respiratory Therapy from their Accelerated Training Program. Tom sat for his board exams with the National Board for Inhalation Therapy (NBRT) earning his CRTT credential in 1974 and his RRT credential in 1975. Tom went on to hold several clinical and management positions in the field of Respiratory Therapy beginning with a therapist position at Bloomington Hospital followed by positions as therapist, Supervisor and Assistant Director at Methodist Hospital of Indiana between 1973 and 1979.

Young Thomas Konkle

Tom was a teacher his entire adult life, beginning with his Associate Instructor position at IU 1971-72, then at the Methodist Hospital of Indiana’s School of Respiratory Therapy Technology in 1974. Later he accepted an Instructor position with IVY Tech In Indianapolis in 1976 . Tom found his final teaching appointment at Vincennes University (VU) in 1979. Professor Konkle served as the Respiratory Care Practitioner Program’s Director of Clinical Education for 23 years until the program’s closure in 2002. It was then that Tom became the Director of Academic Advising at VU and held that position until his retirement in June of 2014.

Tom was a servant leader – giving of his time and talent. This was evident by his active roles in the local Jaycee organization, in his church, and in his profession. Tom was highly involved in professional affiliations and activities throughout his career. In 1973 he became a member of what are now the AARC and the ISRC. Tom actively participated on numerous committees at both the state and national level. He served on the executive board of the ISRC as President and Treasurer. While President of the ISRC, on behalf of the ISRC, he accepted the “Most Improved Affiliate of the Year Award” from the AARC in 1983. If there was a committee in the ISRC, Tom either served on it or chaired it during his tenure.

Tom’s commitment to the ISRC was recognized when he was awarded (on three separate occasions) both the “Presidents Award” and a “Certificate of Appreciation.” Tom served on and Co-Chaired the ISRC Legislative Committee which worked tirelessly to gain certification and then licensure for Respiratory Care Practitioners in the State of Indiana. Tom was always proud that he was issued the first license, number 30000001A. Tom was then appointed by the Governor of Indiana to serve as the original Chairman of the Respiratory Care Committee of the Medical Licensing Board. He served in this capacity from 1989 to 2010. Tom also had an impact at the national level where he served on the AARC’s Chartered Affiliates Committee from 1988-1990 and the State Credentialing Committee from 1988-1994, of which he was Chairman from 1991-1994. He was nominated for the AARC Board of Governors on two different occasions and nominated for President-elect to the AARC in 1984.

Tom was known for his brilliant mind, his ability to analyze, think critically, solve problems, and plan. Tom had an astonishing memory, a wealth of knowledge to share, and was very pleased to do so. He always seemed to have the answers. It was just natural that his career path would have led him to become an educator and an advisor. Tom could be an imposing figure, demanding our respect; he could command a room and direct the masses, but anyone who knew Tom, knew he was an honest man, fair, loyal, and compassionate and he did so love to laugh. Tom personified a definition of the word integrity which is “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” Simply stated, he was a fine human being. As an educator, mentor and colleague, he set the bar high and challenged us to be our best and most authentic selves. We are better people and professionals for having known Tom.

Konkle and family

We are all measured as professionals and leaders by how we conduct ourselves, by our servant hearts, and by the legacy we leave behind; I believe Tom’s legacy lives on. At the personal level it lies with his family and community. His impact on the profession of Respiratory Care cannot be understated. Every person he touched, every student he guided, every colleague he mentored, takes a piece of him with them. It is through this mechanism that Tom’s knowledge and teaching will endure.

It is such sweet sorrow to write about the passing of this man who meant so much to me and numerous others. He was one of the pivotal people in my life, changing its course, as I imagine he did for so many others.

Goodbye dear friend.