Amy B. Shuffelton '92 did not have the typical first-year rooming group.
She lived in a Mass. Hall suite with two other women and, after Thanksgiving, they were joined by a man named Thomas.
She recalls meeting Thomas M. Lauderdale '92 just a week or two before he moved in with the group. "Thomas came in wearing bunny ears and underwear and nothing else," she says.
Another time, Shuffelton came out of the shower to find Lauderdale "dancing around the room, saying, `I just bought 220 candy canes!'" Lauderdale explained that the Coop was having a sale, Shuffleton says. "It was kind of a typical Thomas thing to do...I remember thinking, `this just sums up living with Thomas.'"
Two years later, Lauderdale has become something of a cult figure in Adams House, where he is as much a part of the landscape as the dark wood panneling, black turtlenecks and cigarette smoke haze.
Everyone in Adams knows Thomas, and many have tales to tell about him:
Will L. Rhett '92, Adams house committee chair: After declaring that "Adams House needs new checks," Lauderdale, the house committee treasurer, donned a salmon-colored dress, grabbed a whip and lunch pail and marched off to the bank. He return with Country Living-style checks, boasting pastoral scenes of geese and barns.
Ulysses Y. Chuang '92, one of Lauderdale's roomates: "I met him freshman year in Matthews. I was walking downstairs and heard loud opera music coming out of his room." Chuang looked in the doorway and saw "huge movie posters and Christmas lights." Lauderdale was handing out Twinkies and flowers from a large punch bowl. "That's how he met people in the beginning, walking around and giving things to people."
Tina P. Hsu '93: She needed to borrow a dress for a formal, and Lauderdale approached her one day, saying "I have the perfect dress for you!" He told her that he'd worn it last year, "`so I can't get away with it this year.'"
Victoria Y. Wei '93: "When my roommate and I were shopping houses, we got lost in the tunnels of Adams House, and then we heard this `You are my sunshine, my only sunshine...'" The voice belonged to Lauderdale, and he was wearing "this little fez."
"He's the reason why we're here," says Wei's roommate, Helen L. Limm '93. "He's got that image but it's not pretentious at all in my eyes...it's not like he's stealing attention away from other people," she says.
Whether he steals it or not, Lauderdale does get loads of attention. He is ubiquitous in the Adams House Dining Hall during meal times, whether he is announcing house events or simply sporting a designer gold lame cocktail dress.
"He's the eternal cheerleader of Adams House," Rhett says.
Some Adams residents say they feel that Lauderdale's high visibility makes it hard to really know him. "There's an artificiality. People often feel they can't really know the real Thomas, because he's so social," says one Adams resident.
Lauderdale says that while he is unaware of people's perceptions of him, he does need his own "space."