Thomas A. Sheehan, Yale School of Management ’86
Various recollections of our friend, Tom Sheehan, started in Kurt Anstreicher’s Quantitative Analysis class in 1984, our first year at Yale School of Management in New Haven. Tom was one of the senior members of our class, who along with Roger Mann, was born in 1948. Tom had that groomed mustache and facial hair around his chin, and those sleepy, half-opened eyes, like someone who were either confidently casual or half asleep.
Tom later claimed that, despite his cool exterior, he was actually as terrified as the rest of us to be restarting school after a multi-year hiatus. He wanted to inhale the new Quant information slowly and gradually, rather than fighting against a wind tunnel of data. He took his time, changing the RPM to match his need for order, which he did by listening intently and keeping his eyes at half mast. Tom’s real strength, after all, was his keen sense of hearing.
A graduate of Leslie College in Cambridge, MA and Berklee School of Music in Boston, Tom had a wonderful ear for music: any music from percussion to brass or strings to woodwinds. He seemed to enjoy it all. He had been the “sound man” to musical artists like Pat Metheny and Roberta Flack, schlepping microphones and mammoth speakers around the country for live stage performances. He said that going on tours was nearly as exhilarating as it was exhausting. Between gigs he made money as a piano tuner; doing whatever it took to keep the cash flowing and bread on the table.
In our two years at SOM, Tom and I would often come over to our apartment on Foster Street. We would sit on our front porch balcony and listen to the latest jazz tape he had discovered, and critique the quality of the artists. All the while he smoked a cigarette and blew smoke rings and vapor columns. (His porch lament, “I know I should quit and exercise more, but I like to play with the smoke.”) He had the aura of a late night DJ about him, as he knew the artists, their tone, the recording quality, and the musicality as well, if not better, than most people in the business. From time to time Tom would wax poetic about his dreams for the future: he felt that getting a job with BMI or Warner Music would justify the additional school debt he was amassing and allow his professional career to flourish.
Tom had an easy, full-faced laugh that showed his enjoyment of little things: a bowl of homemade chili, a rousing musical riff, a solid smoke, or the solution to an organizational conundrum. Most of our classmates were fond of Tom and found it easy to encourage him in his active pursuits. He was a sweet, caring man, who was working hard to retool himself, so he could prove he was ready for a “break in the bad weather.” In a word, though, most of us found Tom to be melancholy. We wanted to help him “snap out of it” from time to time, but he seemed pretty set in his head dragging ways. He was our class Eeyore.
Recalling Tom’s second year interview with Sony Music in New York, he was “over the moon.” All of us were so happy for him. His first job seemed a perfect fit, but did not last long enough. With other career changes after SOM, many of us quickly lost track of Tom after we left Yale. I heard that he was working his own gig in New York, but I could not find a forwarding address or contact information for him. We heard rumors about him from classmates, from time to time, but no one in our circle of friends stayed in touch. Many of us wanted to be a “connector” for Tom, to give him some job leads or just to know how he was doing. We had hope that he would be happy wherever the music took him.
We were all surprised at the news of his passing. Tom was 56 years old when he died on May 8, 2005. The New York Times had a notice of a memorial service that was held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, NY, for his family and friends. To our regret, few classmates saw the death notice and we missed the memorial service.
Time for those Saints to come marching in…
God bless you, Tom.
— Henry Hooper