Humans of Parkland: Thom Schnarre

Scott Wells

Staff Writer

Photo of Thom Schnarre by Scott Wells

Photo of Thom Schnarre by Scott Wells

Although Thom Schnarre grew up on a farm in Nokomis, Ill., he knew right away that he himself was not a farmer.

“In fourth grade some boys from church asked me what my dad’s tractors were,” Schnarre said.  “I said he had an orange and a green one.”

Schnarre was born in Taylorville, Ill., but at five moved to Nokomis with his family in order to take over his maternal grandparents’ farm.

“I just always was into the arts and films,” he said. “Allis-Chalmers and John Deere were not really in my vocabulary. It was a bumpy ride growing up.”

Initially majoring in journalism, Schnarre would earn his undergraduate degree in elementary education with a special education focus from Eastern Illinois University. A total of 17 years later, he would return to pursue his master’s.

“My thesis was a 365-page novel and a 45-page researched rationale for its writing technique and style,” he said. “It’s very pretty writing, is one of the biggest bound theses in EIU’s library and will never be published because…I’m not going to pursue it. Sometimes you write something and realize it’s not something you care to share with the masses.”

After completing his studies at EIU, Schnarre came to Parkland in 1996 as a part-time instructor.  He was later hired as a full-time tenured-track instructor in 2001.

An English professor by day, Schnarre’s passion lies in the performing arts.

“I watched all those late night movies with my mom that a 10-year old shouldn’t really be allowed to watch,” he said. “In college, I auditioned for choir and was a soloist which led to a featured role in ‘HMS Pinafore,’ an odd student production where I was both naked and dead in the corner of a prison cell.”

Schnarre has been a part of many Parkland theater productions, both as an actor and as a director, including “Cabaret,” “Pinkalicious,” and “Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches.”  He feels his best effort at Parkland, however, was the production of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”

“It used a lot of multimedia…and was visually arresting, and the ethereal tone of the script was quite haunting and lovely,” he said.

Schnarre is currently directing a stage adaptation of “The Birds,” the same story Alfred Hitchcock used as the skeleton for his classic film of the same name.

“It’s very different from the film: four strangers are trapped in an abandoned cottage in small-town New England by a worldwide attack of birds, which have killed most of the population, knocked out the media and power grid and stopped all deliveries and even stopped the running water,” Schnarre said. “The strangers are forced to forage for everything, and we are locked in the cottage with them over the course of three months in the fall of 2017.”

The show opened on Nov. 3 at the Station Theater in Urbana and will run through Nov. 19.

Schnarre has experienced many personal and professional successes while at Parkland.

He has been a faculty advisor for both Phi Theta Kappa and Parkland Pride. He also received an International Paragon Advisor Award in 2010 for his efforts on behalf of the college.

However, Schnarre finds a great deal of success and satisfaction in his classroom.

“As an English teacher, [my greatest success has] been the hundreds of students I’ve influenced and who have influenced me throughout my time here,” he said. “We are taught by each other, and we rarely recognize how precious that is for all of us.”