Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI


Thomas Daniel Bird

July 20, 1947October 1, 2019

On Tuesday, October 1, 2019, Thomas Daniel Bird, loving husband and father of two children passed away at the age of 72.

Tom was born in Cottonwood, Arizona, on July 20, 1947, to Daniel Sheridan Bird and Elsie Joan Mayer Bird. He grew up farming in Pea Green Corner, a tiny community on a mesa in southwest Colorado. Tom graduated with a BA in history from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he met his wife, Karen, in 1967. They married on June 4th, 1969, and celebrated 50 years together this year. They started a family with a daughter, Kate and then son Morgan in Boulder, before moving to San Francisco and then Palo Alto, where Tom completed a Ph.D. in education at Stanford University in 1989. The family settled in East Lansing, Michigan, where Tom was a professor of teacher education at Michigan State University until his retirement in 2011.

Tom was a lifelong educator, passionate about his life’s work of teaching others to be teachers. He put on his Stanford robes and enthusiastically attended MSU graduation every May and December to show his support. His family is comforted during this difficult time knowing that his legacy will live on in generations of educators who passed through his classrooms and those whom they go on to teach.

Tom was also a lifelong student, a voracious reader, and a lover of history. He interspersed his rapid consumption of Patrick O’Brien novels with a thorough study of each day’s news, which seemed never to discourage him, because he believed so strongly that, despite setbacks, the world is steadily becoming a better place. A week before he passed he said he wasn’t ready to be done yet because he needed to know what would happen next in the news: ”it’s just so damned interesting!”

Tom liked to say that he loved watching other people work, but he was himself an incredibly hard worker with accomplishments including tearing out a kitchen back to the studs and designing and rebuilding by hand. After moving a garden shed across the yard single-handedly using only a few two-by-fours and a couple of rakes, he shared a few photos on Facebook with a quote from Archimedes: “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I can move the earth.” That project was Tom in a nutshell.

Most of all, Tom loved going on adventures with his partner of 50 years, Karen. With their folding bikes in the back of the car, Beethoven in the CD player, and full mugs of coffee, they traveled across the country together, visiting family and friends and exploring locks and canals, museums, historic sites, and coffee shops.

Tom was preceded in death by his father Dan, his mother Joan, his brother Gary, and his sister Diane. He is survived by his wife Karen, daughter Kate (Jeff Parsons), son Morgan (Leah Falon), and sister Penny (Ed Pierce). A memorial service will be planned for next spring. In lieu of flowers, Tom would have appreciated donations in his name to the MSU College of Education Scholarship Fund or to the Democratic party. He’s counting on all of us to continue working to make the world a better place.


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Thomas Daniel Bird

have a memory or condolence to add?

Christina Schwarz

October 7, 2019

Gail Richmond and I were just reminiscing about Tom today - how wonderful a teacher educator he was and how dedicated he was to our department. I remember him shepherding our bylaws through, working on the intern observation protocol and our evaluations for accreditation. I also fondly remember 'Tom'isms - special language that Tom brought to sharing and thinking about teacher education that many of us loved :) And, I have a great memory of him talking about teaching the music teacher candidates and asking them to watch a video of teaching. He asked them to share an idea of what they thought what was going on. Then he asked "what's another?" "And another?" The point was to show that no one interpretation was necessarily going to be right which brought such nuance and consideration into teaching. Thanks so much for your work throughout the years Tom. May you rest in peace.

Kristen Bieda

October 7, 2019

I am heartbroken to hear of Tom's passing. Without a doubt I would not be the teacher educator I am without Tom's influence. I'll never forget how he made me feel like my ideas mattered when I was just beginning my career at MSU. More importantly, I will not forget the indelible impression he left as a man of deep and humble character. Thank you, Tom.