Scholarship developed to honor former BHS principal Tom Hesford

The Tom Hesford Memorial Scholarship has been established in Tom’s memory by his family and friends who would like to see his passion, for education and helping others to succeed, be passed on to future generations. Starting in the spring of 2023, one $1000 scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior from Bismarck High School to continue their post-secondary education.

Tom was a dedicated, well-liked teacher at Bismarck High School from 1967 to 1991 and a beloved, visionary principal from 1991 to 2004. Although Tom accomplished much throughout his life, he came from humble beginnings. When he was less than two years old Tom’s parents divorced and his father walked out of his life, never to be seen again. When he was three years old, his mother died in childbirth along with his baby sister. Since his stepfather was unable to care for him, he became an orphan and was passed from one relative to another, frequently moving to different towns in North Dakota and Minnesota. His grandparents and their three sons and families took turns helping to raise him. The family dynamics were often extremely difficult, leaving Tom struggling to find stability as he was growing up.

Tom noted that countless times in his life he had been told that he was a survivor. But, when he looked back at his unstable beginnings, he didn’t think of himself that way. He felt he was the luckiest person in the world. Although he was raised in poverty without parents, he knew he was raised by people who cared about him. His whole life he was surrounded by teachers and coaches who cared about him. The Latin teacher who wouldn’t allow him to believe that good enough was good enough. The English teacher who convinced him that writing wasn’t about grammar but about having something to say. The football coach who believed in him, even when he didn’t believe in himself. And ultimately, a wonderful wife and family who made him an important part of their lives.

Tom began teaching at Bismarck High in the fall of 1967 and for the next 24 years he was a role model of resilience, perseverance, hard work, compassion, and empathy for a generation of students. His expectations, tempered with a healthy dose of good humor, provided motivation for a countless number of students through the years.

In 1991, Tom became a principal. After two years at Century High School, he came back home to Bismarck High where the skills that he had honed as a teacher served him well as an administrator. He was admired for his visionary leadership and for his unwavering loyalty to his teachers, his students, and his school.

Additional scholarship information, including applicant criteria and application form as well as ways to contribute can be found here:


Partner with the BPS District to empower every learner to thrive by enhancing the services and recognition of students and staff.

Questions should be directed to:

Stacey Lang
Development Director