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Papers of Thomas M. Sutherland

Identifier: UTMS

Scope and Contents

Papers of Thomas M. Sutherland consists of documents dated 1943 to 2008, with the bulk falling from 1959 to 2002. Topics concern Sutherland's research on and course materials for animal breeding and genetics, his time as a hostage in Lebanon and his return, speaking engagements, his book with his wife Jean, At Your Own Risk, and Sutherland family activities. Materials include cards, letters, and other ephemera sent by well-wishers, teaching materials, course notes, speeches, correspondence, awards, home movie films, reel-to-reel audio tapes, photographs, and newspaper clippings.


  • Creation: 1943-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1959-2002


Restrictions on Access

Access to the Weekly Reader containing a student grade in Series 8 (box 36) is restricted for 70 years from the date of creation. Some items are stored off-site so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


Thomas McNee Sutherland (1931-2016) was a philanthropist and Emeritus Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU). His 1985 capture and imprisonment in Lebanon and 1991 release resulted in international prominence.

Born on May 3, 1931, in Falkirk, Scotland, Sutherland earned a B.Sc. in Agriculture from Glasgow University in 1953. He moved to the U.S. and attended graduate school at Iowa State University, earning M.S (1956) and Ph.D. (1958) degrees in Animal Science. Tom Sutherland married Jean Ann Murray in 1958 in Ames, Iowa. They had three daughters: Ann, Kit, and Joan.

After graduation, Colorado State University hired Sutherland as Professor of Animal Sciences, and he researched feed efficiency and taught reproductive physiology at CSU for 26 years. He received the American Society of Animal Science Distinguished Teacher Award in 1975 and CSU's Harris T. Guard Distinguished Service Award for Teaching in 1976. Sutherland also focused on international development, serving as the Director of Training at the International Livestock Center for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the late 1970s.

In 1983, Sutherland took leave from CSU to serve as the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The country was enmeshed in civil war, and Sutherland was kidnapped June 9, 1985, by gunmen with Islamic Jihad, a Shiite militia with ties to Iran. After being held hostage for 2,353 days, he was released November 18, 1991. Celebrations, primariy in Colorado and Iowa, followed his release.

Sutherland spent his later years as a public speaker and philanthropist. In 1996, he and his wife Jean coauthored At Your Own Risk: An American Chronicle of Crisis and Captivity in the Middle East, which detailed the couple's experiences during the hostage ordeal. Tom and Jean Sutherland established the Sutherland Family Foundation to support Fort Collins nonprofits with money they received from a 2001 $323 million settlement against Iran for its involvement in the hostage situation. In 2014, CSU awarded Sutherland the CSU Founders Day Medal for his service to the university and, more broadly, to higher education worldwide. Sutherland died July 22, 2016.

Jean Murray Sutherland (1934-2023) was a philanthropist and English instructor. She earned a bachelors degree in English from Iowa State University in 1956, and after marrying Tom Sutherland, she moved to Fort Collins, Colorado. She moved to Beirut, Lebanon, with Tom in 1983. She earned a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1985, a few months after Tom's capture in Beirut. She spent the next six and a half years trying to obtain Tom's freedom and teaching English at the Hariri Foundation at the American University of Beirut. After Tom's release, Jean accompanied him on many speaking engagements and coauthored At Your Own Risk: An American Chronicle of Crisis and Captivity in the Middle East. Jean died January 13, 2023.


39.5+ linear feet (21 record cartons, 1 document box, 12 clamshells, 3 flat newspaper boxes, 1 flat box, 2 tubes, and 1 flat folder)

Language of Materials



Dr. Thomas McNee Sutherland (1931-2016) was a philanthropist and Emeritus Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU). His 1985 kidnapping and imprisonment in Lebanon and 1991 release resulted in international prominence. The collection covers topics such as Sutherland's animal breeding and genetics research and course materials, family and community efforts to free him from captivity, his return to the U.S. and subsequent speaking tours, his book with his wife Jean, At Your Own Risk, and Sutherland family activities. A smaller amount of letters and documents collected and created by Jean Sutherland are also present. Materials include course materials, award documentation, administrative records for speaking engagements, personal writings, cards, letters, artifacts and ephemera sent by well-wishers, home movie films, audio tapes, photographs, slides, and newspaper clippings.


The collection consists of 9 series in 38 boxes and 2 tubes. Some portions of the collection had an inherent arrangement that was retained; other portions were arranged for the ease of research use.

Series 1: Professional papers, 1950-2000, undated

Subseries 1.1: Colorado State University, 1950-2000, undated

Subseries 1.2: American University of Beirut - Tom, 1979-1990, undated

Subseries 1.3: American University of Beirut - Jean, 1981-1992, undated

Subseries 1.4: Speaking, 1991-2000, undated

Series 2: Captivity and return, 1985-2001, undated

Subseries 2.1: Captivity, 1985-1991, undated

Subseries 2.2: Return, 1991-2001, undated

Series 3: Personal papers, 1953-2000, undated

Series 4: At your own risk, 1994-1997, undated

Series 5: Letters and cards, 1963-2000, undated

Subseries 5.1: Pre-captivity, 1963-1985, undated

Subseries 5.2: Captivity, 1985-1991, undated

Subseries 5.3: Post-captivity, 1991-2000, undated

Series 6: Photographic material, 1943-2008, undated

Subseries 6.1: Photographs, 1943-2008, undated

Subseries 6.2: Slides, 1955-1990, undated

Series 7: Audiovisual, 1956-1983, undated

Subseries 7.1: Film, 1956-1983, undated

Subseries 7.2: Audio, 1967-1983, undated

Series 8: Clippings, newspapers, press summaries, 1982-2002, undated

Series 9: Artifacts, c. 1985-1992


Papers of Thomas M. Sutherland was donated by Jean M. Sutherland in 2018.

Online Materials

Some materials have been digitized and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.


Processing was completed in January 2024. Materials affected by mold were identified and set to a vendor for mitigation in 2021 and 2023. Audiovisual materials were sorted, and all films were digitized in Fall 2020. Reel-to-reel audio tapes were digitized and disposed of in 2022 with digital copies retained. Paper materials were refoldered and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes. The majority of metal fasteners were removed and replaced with plastic clips as needed. All rubber bands were removed. Personally identifiable information was redacted when needed. Newspaper clippings and newspapers concerning Tom Sutherland's captivity in Beirut were separated into their own series; others in Series 1 and Series 5 were inserted between sheets of acid-free paper. With a few exceptions for individual photographs in Series 1 and Series 5 photographs, negatives, and slides were separated to Series 6 and inserted in archival sleeves or folders. Attempts were made to reunite loose negatives with their corresponding photos. Artifacts collected from letters and cards were separated to Series 9.

Guide to the Papers of Thomas M. Sutherland
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Clarissa J. Trapp and Terrie Farley
Copyright 2024
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA