The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

Faces of ACC: Tom Coakley

New CHAD dean has landed at ACC
Image via Alex Kellogg
Dr. Tom Coakley

From the skies to the Pentagon to the classroom, Dr. Tom Coakley has landed at the dean’s suite of Arapahoe Community College. Though he just began his work as ACC’s new dean of communications, humanities, art, and design in August, Coakley already holds the school in high regard, stating, “It’s pretty good so far. I really like it. The people I’ve encountered are all very committed to being great educators.”

Throughout his journey, Coakley has not only been a committed educator himself but also an equally committed learner. “I read pretty voraciously: science and literature and creative nonfiction. I read five or six newspapers a day, so I’m very interested in learning,” he said.  

On top of the vast knowledge he acquires just for fun, his formal education includes a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s and doctorate in English. “For years and years, I thought about getting an engineering degree or another math graduate degree but what I really loved was reading and writing,” he said. 

His extensive qualifications led him to a wide variety of roles. He was an intelligence officer in the Air Force, a dean of students at the Defense Language Institute, and a professor at the Air Force Academy. He was also in the Pentagon, ran a military college in Texas, and spent the last three years running a global satellite enterprise.

He said, “I could have had a lot of cool jobs, but this is what I really wanted to do. This is where my heart is, in education.”   

Along with his dedication to education, he spends his free time enjoying physical enrichment through backpacking, skiing, and getting out on the trails as many mornings as he can. Coakley’s own passion for personal growth in every aspect is the same thing he appreciates about the world of higher education. 

“There is a culture of a desire to learn to become better human beings,” he said. “An education can be a pathway to a job, an education can be a pathway to personal fulfillment, and I love the creative and philosophical energy that surrounds a college.” 

Coakley is from Colorado originally, and after moving 14 times over a 24-year period, he wanted to “invest in [his] home state.” He considers ACC to be a “cornerstone of Littleton” and wants to have a leadership role in his community.  

“It’s a lot of fun working with the faculty. I want to do everything I can to help [them] achieve their personal and professional goals, to be a good mentor and to listen and advocate for them,” he said. “It makes me feel good to be working at a college and particularly at ACC.”


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Alex Kellogg, Reporter
Alex Kellogg (she/her) is a student at ACC studying journalism. She is pursuing a career in investigative journalism. Her interests include music, psychology, and spending too much time on social media.
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