SportsUNC Charlotte

Tom Whitestone’s Legacy Of Dedication At Charlotte Will Endure Long After He Retires


A cluttered office on the second floor of the James H. Barnhardt Center is filled with a treasured collection of Charlotte 49ers Athletics memorabilia.

For 37 years, Thomas E. Whitestone has chronicled the history of the 49ers’ success from the school’s media relations department. Since 1987, it has been the only full-time job he had.

“I was lucky to land in such a wonderful place to work, develop and grow,” he said, “…so many cool things going on back then — and plenty of fun.” 

“Back then” was the summer of 1987, when I met Tom in Portland, Oregon, site of that year’s College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Convention. I was Charlotte’s media relations director, and while in Portland I interviewed candidates for an opening in our department.

Tom stood out. I found him genuine, easy-going, and our conversation flowed. I was looking for someone with strong writing skills, wit, and the ability to collaborate closely with me over long hours in a cramped office in Belk Gym.

Requirements for the job did not include the uncanny ability to spew movie quotes from such classics as “Arthur” or “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” but Tom could. He also knew an array of lyrics to popular songs, he wrote poetry, and had played college soccer at Brandeis.

I found Tom to be a well-rounded young man who came from a great family in Dalton, Mass.

Now, why was he interested in a job at UNC Charlotte?

It may have been because I advertised the job opening as Assistant Sports Information Director instead of internship. I will not share the salary for fear Human Resources will retroactively fine the Athletics Department for the paltry salary. But suffice it to say, I had a great pool of candidates.

Over a good beverage and above loud music at a small music venue, I got to know Tom and hoped he would take the job.

He made it clear he wanted to feature his writing, to record and archive the accomplishments of student-athletes and coaches, stories that would grace the pages of hometown newspapers, which would fill high school trophy cases, and would create keepsakes they would blush about decades later.

He would be the missing piece in an office where records were kept on typewriters with sheets of paper run through mimeograph machines, then stencil burners, then 4–6-minute telecopiers, then rolling fax paper, and ever the weekly news releases sometimes 400 deep in mailing lists that were seemingly late before they were mailed. Files became piles and piles filled every file cabinet we could find. 

Stories developed from those records, the wins, and the setbacks. Tom mastered the art of pivoting in the techno-driven world of social media, emails, instant news, and the Internet. The old typewriter became a bulky computer then a laptop, pay telephone booths on the road became “bag phones”, then cell phones and watches, Beta tapes once air-mailed in advance of games for coaches’ shows were now quickly envisioned and delivered through digital live video conferences.
He navigated the office of sports information as the director and then Associate Athletic Director for almost four decades. News was no longer daily but up-to-the-minute. Everything became instant, yet he never wavered. He adapted. Instantaneous social media likes, dislikes, and more, the redefined newspaper print phased out. Everything changed. He remained unflappable.

In his career, he has announced coaching hires with aplomb, said goodbye to coaches who moved on, celebrated conference titles and NCAA Tournaments, deftly managed conference moves from The Metro to Conference USA 1.0, to the Atlantic 10, to C-USA 2.0, and now The American Athletic Conference. Oh, and the introduction of football in 2013. It changed everything. But for Tom, it was one more pivot. He gave everything to a profession that has seen promising candidates walk away from long hours, impatient fan bases, those wanting more.

He met his wife Kim in Belk Gym and together they enjoyed watching their children Sammy and Allie grow up 49er fans, with Allie a junior on the campus.

In 2020, the Charlotte 49ers Student-Athlete Advisory Committee honored Tom with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for “his passion, all his hard work, effort and dedication on behalf of current and former 49ers student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

I had to dig that up. Tom never highlighted himself!

More than any one person in Charlotte 49ers Athletics, Tom delivered sports information to a proud fan base. While it was not his responsibility alone, he picked up for those before him and chronicled, archived, celebrated, and wrote 37 years of Charlotte 49ers history in the only way he knows. He prevailed under control, and never wavered.

In one of his final accomplishments, another notch on the tree of 49er sports life, Tom fulfilled his decades-long dream to create the 49ers’ Athletics Hall of Fame, guiding the administration skillfully. Once again, those who he wrote about, watched, and cheered for would be honored beyond their playing days. And, one day, it is likely he himself will enter the Hall to applause he never expected, but lifted by those he celebrated all those years. 

Tom Whitestone will be retiring effective June 30, 2024. 

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