Tom Papa was born and raised in Helena, Arkansas. He graduated high school from Subiaco Academy in May 1947 and joined the United States Armed Forces where he proudly served in the Navy. He went on to attend the University of Mississippi where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration. While at Ole Miss, Papa was an active member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He is often heard saying that some of the fondest memories he has are from his time spent as an undergraduate at Ole Miss.
After graduation, Papa returned to Jackson to work for the Internal Revenue Service. Shortly thereafter he began his private practice accounting career at Touche Ross & Co. where he later retired. Upon retirement, Papa helped form the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation where he served as president for many years. In 1998, the Ford Foundation awarded the University of Mississippi $20 million to design and build the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Oxford campus. Through his work at the foundation, Papa has been instrumental in the foundation’s support of the university, including gifts to the new state-of-the-art science building and the UMMC Mind Center.
Papa lives in Jackson with his wife Gayle. He is the father of two children and proud grandfather of four.