WHERE TOM COMES FROM
Tom Kuster was born in 1939, which makes him now 82 years old. With Judy, his wife of 55 years, he raised nine children, seven adopted. They have been residents of New Ulm since 1971.
Tom went to school through “24th grade” earning a PhD from the University of Wisconsin that enabled his 45-year career in college teaching, half in New Ulm and half in Mankato, teaching courses in critical thinking, problem analysis and solving, conflict management, intercultural communication, leadership, and others. He is an ordained Lutheran minister who promises to keep religion out of politics, and vice versa.
While Tom has never run for political office before, he was elected president of the Communication and Theatre Association of Minnesota and of the National Parliamentary Debate Association which had a membership of some 130 colleges and universities. Tom’s expertise has taken him outside the United States as well, for presentations in Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, and Peru. He led student debate teams to Romania, Serbia, and North Macedonia, and as a Fulbright scholar taught critical thinking courses in China and South Korea. With Judy he explored family roots in Germany, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Tom retired from teaching in 2017 at the age of 77.
Outside academe, Tom served two years as Chapter Chair and ten years as Disaster Chair for the Brown-West Nicollet Chapter of the American Red Cross and was publicity consultant for community education programs sponsored by New Ulm Citizens Concerned about Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.
In 1970’s politics, Tom was Brown County chair for “Dave Durenberger for the US Senate”; Dave became a senate health issues expert. Tom planned publicity for Terry Dempsey’s run for the Minnesota House; Terry became minority leader, then a distinguished judge. Yes, they were Republicans and Tom worked for them. But that Republican party dedicated to principles and public service no longer exists. Today’s Republican Party is not that old Republican Party. In 2018 and 2020 Tom worked for the Mindy Kimmel campaign.
In 1978 Tom started a decade’s service on the New Ulm Human Rights Commission and for three years represented New Ulm as president of the statewide League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions, working closely with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights for whom he became a certified conflict mediator. In 1985 the MDHR honored him with a special award and in 1988 Governor Perpich recognized him for his Human Rights work for the state of Minnesota.
In 1982 Tom helped conduct a successful school levy campaign for New Ulm Public Schools; the district awarded him their OLE (Outstanding Layperson in Education) award. He also worked on fundraising campaigns that built the Vogel Arena and the Flandrau Park swimming pool. In 1986 he and Judy were honored with the New Ulm Sertoma Club’s “Service to Mankind” award and March 11, 1986 was declared “Tom and Judy Kuster Day” by the mayor of New Ulm recognizing their services to the community.
In 1975 Tom and Judy hosted in their home a refugee family from Vietnam who became productive tax-paying citizens of New Ulm. More recently Judy and Tom hosted an immigrant from Africa who has also become a U.S. citizen and a productive, well-liked member of our community. Now Tom hopes to provide another service to the community by prompting a spirited issue discussion in the 2022 campaign for Minnesota’s House seat in District 15b.