Tom “Terrific” Schenck knows his super-heroes. Back in the day, long before movie franchises branched into mega-commercial products, superheroes were relegated to popular comic book heroes segueing into television shows. Generating fan buzz, said Tom, “Was all very old school with personal appearances.”
As a young man, early in the Spiderman franchise, said Tom, “I was hired to do pa-rades and mall openings. I’d be standing at one end of the anchor store and as far as the eye could see, a thousand families and kids were eagerly waiting for their picture and autograph … it was a blast!”
For Tom, portraying a superhero for youngsters was a dream come true, but he knew that just donning the outfit or flaunting a cape doesn’t make one a superhero. He learned at an early age that we all have our challenges to face … but don’t always realize when we have the strength to overcome them.
His mother lost three children to a hereditary birth complication before he came along. Not wanting to tempt fate, Tom “Terrific” as she dubbed him, was a guarded, “skinny little farm kid.” He didn’t participate in sports until he reached high school, so looked for other ways to while away his time.
“I don’t know how I found my way to comic books but they were really a source of inspiration,” said Tom. His favorites were the superheroes. “I was just enamored with Spiderman, Super Man, Batman, The Flash, Aqua Man, and the courageous Captain America. Not only their physical prowess, but more importantly, the values that most of them subscribed to.” Could it be because he saw those values in his parents, as well?
Tom adored his mother and watched throughout his young years, as she met challenge after challenge, head-on, just like his comic book heroes. He struggled through typical, tough (for him), farming chores by day; by night, flashlight and a stack of comic books in hand, he rushed to bed, dove under the covers and avidly absorbed stories of the powerful superheroes who could do anything.
Thinking himself quite ordinary in academics and sports he plowed unremarkably through elementary and high school, until One day in a pivotal moment of yet another losing wrestling match, Tom found his own inner super Powers. As a youngster the only thing he “excelled” in was wrestling but he was pinned every match the first year.
This time, he took a deep breath, struggled mightily, and finally turned his opponent on his back to win with the pin. Realizing his inner strength, Tom went on to become one of the captains, and procured a San Diego State scholarship. Even in college, struggling with his own neurodiversity, he wasn’t expecting too much of himself, yet scored an academic scholarship to Dartmouth College. “I wrote my graduate thesis on Utopian philosophy,” said Tom. Not surprising. He became the eternal optimist, willing to reach inside himself for his super powers—real or fiction.
Many people have had that aha! Moment and summoned their inner strength to best an obstacle. The trick, and Tom’s strength to share, is finding how you can summon that superhero dynamic at will.
Practicing What he Preaches
Midtown Manhattan on my way to the stage at a charity benefit for Multiple Sclerosis
Mary and Leland Schenck holding me, their first surviving child…I was already plotting to crush villains
“I am known,” says Tom, “for the highly sought after ‘Superhero Factor’ TM keynote speech.” Motivational events are just one
of the many ways Tom has found over the year s to help others become superheroes.
From middle-school teacher to running a school, to fundraising, recruiting and educational advisor, Tom has an extensive background of lessons to share.
His professional strong suits are marketing recruiting, and sales. With those as a foundation, he’s finding unique ways to innovate new applications in the educational system, working with others to resolve problems.
A great example of this is when Tom created a business a few years ago that he described as “really in my lane. I took those skills and combined them with educational .
recruiting and created a number of different services. For his Results Oriented Recruiting (ROR) magazines, he said, “I wrote a one-hundred-and-fifty-page recruiting playbook for schools admissions offices, which had never been done before.”
Much of his work, and his wife, Nancy’s, is with “children now termed to be neurodiverse—we used to call them learning disabled.” Facing her own medical challenges, Tom sees Nancy as a super-warrior, and together, have leapt many hurdles. Their interest in neurodiversity led him to working with “… a company [Book Sherpa] starting a new platform which will revolutionize the way we read, retain, and act on books (particularly the neurodiverse).”
Culmination of a successful run of the world’s only lifestyle magazine for educators
A Superhero’s Work is Never Done
With always a list of “spinning plates” projects to work on, Tom is eager to solve problems and create large and small miracles in the coming year. Tom “Terrific” is working on a new magazine with a focus on art. Not that he claims particular skills in art, but has always appreciated it. The magazine will focus on all things artistic, much in the manner of a “famous art museum in Russia called ‘Garage Museum.’ It was created by a young man and his sister in 2008 and become very popular.
“The magazine’s title is Red Chalk,” says Tom, “based on Renaissance painters who were classically trained. And as a lot of those folks did, they went from very elaborate paintings to just kind of the essence of a particular form.” Readily available, red chalk was popular with Michelangelo as it enabled him to use its smudging and blending qualities, while he toiled on the Sistine Chapel sketches.
Moving to another spinning plate, soon, Tom will perform his first standup comedy gig and [by the time this publishes] he’ll be swimming in senior Olympics. Can he do it all successfully? Don’t tell him he can’t. It’s
always been a series of overcoming things; something he has done very well. Tom admits many ideas for projects come while his mind has nothing else to do, like when he’s swimming. Yet another one, “We’re also creating schools with curriculums having to do with blockchain and cryptocurrency [an industry in which] all the major banks are getting involved,” as they struggle to retain customers.
Thanks to those myriad of skills and talents, decades of challenges and wins, and no less than ten projects at a time on his desk, Tom has certainly discovered and applied his own super-strengths. But he also knows superheroes are all around us and believes any one of us can activate our super powers. We just need a little help …
Three Phases to Super Power Status
“One of the things I talk about when I do keynotes,” Tom said, “is being a superhero kinda comes in three phases. We mortals, we’re not born as superheroes, but many people have taken all of their God-given skills, talents, and resources, and put themselves in a position to maximize them.” And then what? “So if you want to BE a superhero, you need to first find a mentor.” Tom then urges us to apply our innate abilities to what we learn from that mentor. Putting our strengths together with the lessons discovered from our mentor, is the key to our power. “The last part of the superhero ‘trilogy’ if you will,” said Tom, “is it’s your job to become a mentor to others … then, you can call yourself a superhero One of Tom’s greatest accomplishments is becoming the man his mother knew he could, in spite of his challenges. He’s paying it forward in many ways, including in tribute to his superhero mom. He founded the Mary Elizabeth Schenck Educational fund in 2007. “Its focus,” said Tom, “is to honor my mother’s twenty-seven-year legacy as an educator, promoting courage and responsibility in America’s middle schools.”
What does it mean to BE a superhero? (Did we mention it all comes in threes?)
Tom takes you to the final level. As he studied those ol’ comic books so long ago, he recognized a common crusader thread. Apply yourself with … “Courage, the ability to acknowledge one’s fear but proceed in spite of danger. Tenacity, the ability to take your knocks repeatedly, but get up one more time than you are knocked down. Focus, the ability to prioritize and concentrate your energies on accomplishments that will move you forward and closer to your goals.”
“At the end of the day,” says Tom, “we [superheroes] can say, ‘I did the best I could with what I had … done with honesty and fortitude.’” And a humble swoosh of your cape.
ROR (Results Oriented Recruiting) Magazines
Schenck Educational fund
The Villain Crusher – Tom “Terrific” Schenck