Our first joint medalists, Thomas Craig
and Bessie M. Katsilometes are each first generation Greek-Americans that have dedicated themselves to lifelong self-improvement and community service from Pocatello to Boise, while also helping so many others to enhance their own opportunities. Bessie and Tom met in the 1970s while at Idaho State University.
Their humble beginnings laid the foundation for their lifelong commitment to hard work and community service that has defined their lives for more than 40 years. This distinguished Idaho couple has performed in an exemplary fashion in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. Tom Katsilometes has been a public servant to Idaho all of his adult life, either working in our schools or at the county as Bannock County Commissioner or at the state level as a Commissioner of the Idaho State Tax Commission. Tom has received numerous awards, including Statesman of the Year. Dr. Bessie Katsilometes, employed by Idaho State University for 27 years in a variety of administrative positions, serves as Dean for Academic Programs at ISU-Meridian Health Science Center, where she facilitates the delivery of more than 20 undergraduate and graduate degrees and operation of several clinics providing healthcare services. Her awards include Idaho Women of the Year by the Idaho Business Review and the ISU Distinguished Service Award. Tom and Bessie are well-known for supporting each others’ endeavors. In fact, people know that recruiting one of them results in the engagement of both; thus, their combined efforts are exponential.
Although a joint nomination is somewhat unique, this couple embodies both individually and collectively the qualities outlined in the selection criteria for Idaho’s Hometown Hero Medal. Tom and Bessie embody the spirit of philanthropy in their collective work and volunteerism as well as by generously donating their personal financial resources to various foundations, scholarship funds, and programs to improve health, youth and human services. This couple has worked through their jobs, church, educational institution affiliations, and civic associations to create a better world for those less fortunate. As a volunteer, Tom’s philanthropy and willingness to give of his time and expertise also is notable, serving as Vice Chairman of Bannock Development Corporation for 15 years and serving as the Idaho Athletic Commissioner for 10 years, appointed first by Governor Dirk Kempthorne and then by Governor Butch Otter.
Perhaps one of Bessie, in turn, is deeply engaged in the creation of numerous opportunities for the disadvantaged. Two examples are highlighted by Bessie’s important formative work to establish the Center of New Directions and the Partners for Prosperity Program in Southeastern Idaho. The sustained presence of these two programs ultimately has helped over 11,000 students and led to more than $11 million dollars raised to address poverty reduction in 16 counties and the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Together, Tom and Bessie have also raised two successful children, Nikalene and Pete, who undoubtedly will continue their legacy. It is people like Tom and Bessie that symbolize Idaho’s spirit by being heroes every day without even realizing it.