By Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
At first glance, Thomas Barnard, or Tom, is a quaint member of the staff at Baylor University. His day-to-day consists of meetings, scenic strolls around campus, indulging in his hobby of photography and maybe even taking an occasional pit stop to watch squirrels play in the trees. Tom lives a normal life that seemingly would not warrant a must-see news story—or so it seems.
The mystery, the anonymity and the oddity behind Tom’s story makes him all the more captivating. It would shock many to find out that the soft-spoken lover of all things Baylor is the owner of an Instagram account that is followed by almost 4,500 fans who know Tom Barnard only by his social media handle: “tomatbaylor.”
“It wasn’t my goal to build my following,” Barnard said. “It was just my goal to connect to these students. It started exploding. All of a sudden, I was at a thousand, then two-thousand, then three-thousand and now I get stopped on the sidewalk.”
Tom is unique not only for his unwavering passion for Baylor, but for his decision to forego major campus celebrity status by remaining nearly anonymous on his account. Pictures of himself are not impossible to come by, yet the profile is almost entirely pictures that promote student life, athletics and aesthetic views.
“I think that anonymity makes it more exciting and more mysterious,” Barnard said.
In his work, there lies a heroic aspect that is more than unique. Some would classify a hero as someone who does extraordinary things, and Tom is doing exactly that. Rather than hunting for credit and fame, Tom breaks the mold by living behind the spotlight to promote what he is passionate about. A hero can be classified as someone with noble qualities, and there is little more noble than having the humility to help others without the desire for credit.
“People sign in and follow an account, because they’re interested in what the account puts out,” Barnard said. “I know the folks who follow the Tom @ Baylor account are interested in learning more about Baylor University and what’s going on here. I don’t make the assumption that they follow it, because they are interested at all in me.”
Yet the lack of credit and recognition does not phase Tom who is gratified by the people all around him.
“The people. The students. Baylor is unique. Baylor is unique, because it has a foundational pillar of a caring community. You see it. Every student I interact, every parent I interact with. People are really, really nice here. The thing that makes Baylor different is the people—hands down.”
Thomas Barnard may not wear a uniform or save lives, but he is a hero in passion and humility among the Baylor community.