Thomas W. Gittins, Sr., longtime resident of the City of Falls Church, died last month.
Tom Gittins was president of Gittins and Associates, Inc., a consulting services firm specializing in international programs and projects, special project activities, organizational development and capacity building, meeting planning and management, strategic planning, program evaluation, organization and institution representation. Clients included colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, overseas institutions, foundations and corporations.
He worked throughout the United States and around the world with NGOs in organizational development and management, strategic planning, volunteer leadership development, professional staff training, program development, resource development and capacity building.
Gittins earned a B.A. in Sociology and Economics, senior class president, as a graduate of Cornell University Tom joined the administration there as assistant director of alumni relations. He then moved on to a career as an insurance broker in Delaware, from which he took a leave of absence to become associate director and director of Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic as the youngest Peace Corps staff person in the world. Following that, he left the insurance business and returned to Washington, D.C. where he served as chief of operations for the Latin America Bureau of Peace Corps.
Tom left the Peace Corps to become executive vice president and CEO of Sister Cities International, a private, nonprofit national association of U.S. cities and citizen volunteer committees that have sister city affiliations with cities overseas for the purpose of international professional, educational, cultural, technical, municipal and business exchange. Under his leadership, the program grew to include U.S. city linkages from approximately 400 cities to over 1,000 and city affiliations throughout the world between U.S. cities and cities in more than 120 other countries.
During his administration, he led the- growth and development of the U.S. Sister Cities program to the point where it is one of the most highly respected and effective private, community-based, citizen exchange mechanisms anywhere, with a proven track record for innovation and achievement. In coordination with the U.S. Information Agency, Tom pioneered innovative sister city training and problem-solving programs for municipal professionals and NGO and community leaders in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, contributing to societal and economic transformations in many communities.
Tom was a founding member of the International Exchange Association, a consortium of citizen exchange organizations in the United States; of the International Leadership Institute for international volunteer leadership; of Fondo Quisqueya, a foundation providing education and training opportunities to needy candidates in the Dominican Republic; and of the Coalition for Citizen Diplomacy.
He was a member of advisory committees to President Reagan and to President Carter and served as a public member of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Selection Board. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, Global Ties U.S., Sister Cities International, and served as Chairman of Delphi International, as Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of Citizenship, and on the Board of Trustees of World Learning. He was most recently the Washington Representative for the Network for Citizen Diplomacy.
Meeting his wife Suzanne in Ithaca, New York over 60 years ago she and Tom were the first to build a beach rental house at Whalehead Beach, North of Duck, North Carolina where they spent many a summer, reminding them of the times spent in the Dominican Republic.
Loving the water the Gittins family enjoyed being members of High Point Pool 47 years cheering on the swim team and Tom serving on the board of directors. Tom enjoyed many a meal at local restaurants, countless performances at Creative Cauldron, and nearly every FIRSTfriday event. Classical music, the oldies, Felix the Cat, the squirrel My Guy, books on tape, cowboy movies, traveling to over 35 countries, and his family, and so much more have been the loves of his life.
Tom leaves behind a wife, Suzanne (Sue), two children (Tom and Dianne), and their respective partners, Gina and Suzanne, and two grandchildren, Grant and Kyle, as well as a broad network of friends and colleagues in the Washington, DC area and around the world.
Friends are invited to join the family to honor and celebrate the amazing life of Tom Gittins at Ireland’s Four Provinces, 105 West Broad Street, Falls Church. Light food and beverages will be available from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 12, with a brief program beginning at 4:30 p.m, during which persons will be invited to share a short anecdote about this great husband, dad, pop-pop and friend.
In lieu of flowers, you are asked to consider making a donation to Fondo Quisqueya, www.fondoq.org, a charity Gittins helped found to support low-income youth in the Dominican Republic.