Thomas Walter Jernstedt 1944 - 2020

Thomas Walter Jernstedt, 75, passed away September 5, 2020, in Jupiter, Florida. The son of Don and Catherine Jernstedt, he was born November 24, 1944, in McMinnville, Oregon. He was raised in Carlton, Oregon; it has often been said he never forgot his small-town roots.

He was an all-state athlete in football, basketball and baseball while at Yamhill-Carlton High School. Always the diplomat, he was elected student body president and also governor of Oregon’s Boys State.

It was the football scholarship from the University of Oregon that changed his career forever. He graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a master’s in Education in 1973. After working in the UO Athletics Department as an events manager for three years, he accepted a position with the NCAA as director of events in 1972.

Through the course of 38 years at the NCAA, he was a consummate leader and passionate administrator whose genuine connection with people impacted countless lives and careers. Known to make time for everyone, he’s been described as thoughtful, respectful, likable, honest and a silent power who “carried a big stick, but never used it.” He was a tireless advocate for men and women student-athletes across all sports during his career.

Often referred to as the “Father of the Final Four,” he is credited with developing the college basketball championship from a fairly modest tournament to “March Madness,” with a multi-billion dollar television contract and fans around the world.

Tom also held multiple governance positions with USA Basketball starting in 1975, culminating as its President (2001-2004). He served honorably on boards of directors and committees, including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; United States Olympic Committee; United States-International University Sports Federation; Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association; Federation of International Basketball Association; and the University of Oregon Alumni Association.

Though highly regarded for his basketball reputation, Tom was one of the original members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee for four years (2013). He also consulted with a number of athletic associations, conferences, and institutions.

He never liked attention or praise, but his many accomplishments were recognized over the years. Significantly, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. He also received the John Bunn Award for his outstanding lifetime dedication to basketball (2001). The University of Oregon honored him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award (2001). In 2007, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy and the Bill McGowan Leadership Award from the Indiana Convention and Visitors Association. USA Basketball awarded him the Edward S. Steitz Award for his contributions and service to national and international basketball (2009). The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined Tom as a contributor to the game (2010). He received the state of Indiana’s highest civilian honor, the Sagamore of Wabash (2017). To cap it all off, he will be inducted posthumously into the State of Oregon’s Sports Hall of Fame this year.

While his professional achievements and awards were impressive, some of his greatest joys were in his personal life. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather (“Pop”), brother, uncle, cousin and true friend. Tom loved his golf rivalries, and participating in and watching all sports—usually with three TV sets at once. He’d find Oregon Ducks football and basketball broadcasts no matter where he was traveling in the world. He cherished any visit to the state of Oregon (“God’s Country,” he called it), and enjoyed Oregon Pinot Noir—especially those from his hometown.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Don and Catherine Jernstedt. He is survived by his wife, Kristine Kellam Jernstedt, and son, Cole, of Jupiter; son, Derek Jernstedt and wife Jennifer of Danville, California; and daughter, Jaci Jernstedt, also of Danville; brother, Rich Jernstedt and wife Jeani of Chicago; sister, Missy Abrahamson and husband Rick Abrahamson of West Linn, Oregon; sister, Susie Baty and husband Dick Baty of Lake Oswego, Oregon; parents-in-law, Barb and Ron Kellam of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; brother-in-law, Scott Kellam and wife Kathy of Pittsboro, North Carolina; brother-in-law, Michael Kellam of Lancaster; and his grandchildren, Jake Jernstedt and Avery Jernstedt of Danville.

Based on his long-term commitment to the University of Oregon and student-athletes, the Tom Jernstedt Student-Athlete Scholarship has been established. Memorial contributions can be made in Tom’s honor to:

Duck Athletic Fund; 2727 Leo Harris Parkway, Eugene, OR 97401. Reference “Tom Jernstedt Scholarship” in the check memo. Contributions can also be made online at:

Memorial service plans are pending.


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