TOM HOSTER ’72, this year’s recipient of the Harold Helm Distinguished Service Award, shared the following story at the Annual Giving dinner Feb. 21.

This is my 28th year as class agent for the Class of ’72, meaning this is my sixth tour of duty. It was in my first tour of duty, in the late 1980s, that my family and I were living in Columbus, Ohio. It was early June, and I was making phone calls to classmates out of my bible: my three-ring notebook, with everyone’s name, address, phone number, and giving history in it. It had color-coded Post-It tabs indicating the time zone in which the classmate lived, so that as the evening wore on, I could work my way east to west and never miss the 7-to-9 p.m. calling window. 

Late in the evening, I was making a call to a classmate in Oregon. To be honest, I don’t remember his name, but it was a common name, something like “Paul Johnson.” 

The phone rings, and a guy answers, “Hello?” 

I say, “Hey, is this Paul Johnson?” He says, “This is Paul.”

I slip into my routine: “Paul, this is Tom Hoster, from the Class of ’72 at Princeton, calling to remind you that there are just a few weeks left in the Annual Giving year and we would love to hear from you again this year.” 

He says, “Let me stop you right there, Tom.” 

Of course, my heart sank. 

He says, “I’m Paul Johnson, but I am not your Paul Johnson. I didn’t go to Princeton.” 

I tell him, “Oh, gee, Paul, I am so sorry. Clearly a case of mistaken identity. I will call the University in the morning and have them take you off our list.” 

He replies, “You guys take this fundraising stuff pretty seriously.” 

I chuckle, “Well, Paul, I guess we do. But hey — not to worry; I will call the University in the morning and have them take your name off our list.” 

He replies, “Yeah, Tom, that’s probably all for the best. Although I have to tell you, Tom, I am going to miss that alumni magazine you guys send out.” 

Tom Hoster ’72