Fort Collins community leader Thomas Sutherland has passed away at the age of 85.

I’ll never forget the day my wife and I met Thomas Sutherland. We were at Nico’s Catacombs, which is now Sunny Lubick’s Steakhouse. He was wearing a kilt and very proud of his Scottish heritage. We talked a lot about radio. He told us that radio was one of the things that kept him going when he was a hostage in Lebanon. I was also there when Thomas Sutherland returned to Fort Collins. I’ll never forget when the crowd at Moby Arena stood and cheered for what seemed like 15 minutes to welcome him home. It sent chills up and down my spine.

Sutherland was serving as dean of the faculty of Agriculture and Food Science at American University in Beirut when he was taken hostage in 1985 and held in captivity for more than six years. When he was freed, Sutherland and his wife, Jean, were welcomed home to the largest celebration in Fort Collins’ history.

Sutherland and his wife, Jean, wrote a book about his captivity, “At Your Own Risk: An American Chronicle of Crisis and Captivity in the Middle East.”

Colorado State University President Tony Frank released a statement after Sutherland’s passing

“One of the greatest moments in the history of Colorado State University was the afternoon in 1991 when we welcomed our friend and colleague Tom Sutherland home from his long captivity in Beirut. His spirit and optimism inspired the world, and the deep devotion of his family during the bleak years he was a hostage taught us a profound lesson of courage, faith, and hope.”

In 2014 the Colorado State University community honored Tom and Jean Sutherland with the prestigious Founders Day Medal in recognition of their exemplary service to the University, Fort Collins, and higher education worldwide.

Sutherland Charities

Longtime community leaders and volunteers, Tom and Jean Sutherland established the Sutherland Family Foundation, which has supported many Fort Collins nonprofits including the Food Bank of Larimer County, Bas Bleu Theatre, and community radio. They have also been generous supporters of the Colorado Boys Ranch, CSU agricultural scholarships, the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and Crossroads Safehouse.