Friends of the Smokies announced yesterday the creation of a new trail improvement fund to honor the memory of Tom Cronan, Professor Emeritus at Carson-Newman College. Cash gifts and pledges already total more than $463,000 toward a $500,000 fundraising goal.
Tom Cronan inspired many as he forged his path as a teacher, national pentathlon champion, husband, brother, father, grandfather, courageous survivor of cancer, and tireless advocate for health and wellness. Many people knew him also as a hiker, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, but who usually found renewal on his home trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, especially the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte.
“This new fund would mean a lot to Tom, because of his love of both hiking and Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Joan Cronan, Tom’s widow and the interim athletic director at the University of Tennessee. “It means a lot to the Cronan family, too. We’re very touched by all the people who have made this lasting tribute to Tom.”
The new fund has been named the Tom Cronan Pathfinder Fund. It forms a major component of Friends of the Smokies’ $4 million Trails Forever endowment campaign, which will help finance major trail improvements each year on the park’s 800 miles of trails. Contributions to the Trails Forever Endowment, including contributions to the Tom Cronan Pathfinder Fund, are being matched dollar for dollar – up to $2 million – by the Aslan Foundation, which was established by the late Lindsay Young of Knoxville, one of the founders of Friends of the Smokies.
Donors to the Tom Cronan Pathfinder Fund have included more than 90 individuals, companies, and foundations from nine different states, providing gifts and pledges ranging in size from $10 to $100,000.
“We are very grateful to Tom Cronan’s friends and family for being so generous in honoring his memory and helping protect a resource that Tom enjoyed so much,” said Jim Hart, President of Friends of the Smokies. “Tom was known for his positive attitude and a great sense of resolve. We’re taking that same approach as we work to secure the final $37,000 to complete the Tom Cronan Pathfinder Fund. The goal’s in sight, and with just a few more donations, we will get there.”
To donate online or to learn more, go to www.smokiestrailsforever.org/Pathfinders.aspx or www.friendsofthesmokies.org, or call Friends of the Smokies at (800) 845-5665.