Colorado is mourning the loss of Tom Robinson, longtime associate commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association, co-founder of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and husband to its namesake director, Cleo Parker Robinson. Robinson died early Monday morning after a battle with multiple health conditions, including colon cancer, according to a Cleo Parker Robinson Dance representative. He was 76.
Robinson was an influential and beloved figure in Colorado high school sports. In 2001, he became the first Black administrator of the CHSAA, the governing organization for all high school activities across the state. He was widely respected throughout his 20 years there for his passion, dedication and integrity. He was also the president of the National Association of Sports Officials, and he worked as the replay coordinator for the Big-12 Conference. Robinson announced in December that he would retire from CHSAA at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
“Beyond the impact Tom has made in this Association, our state and nationally over the course of his 30-plus year career as a coach, teacher, administrator, white-hat referee, Hall of Famer, Big 12 replay expert, husband, father and grandfather, we are all better people for having had Tom in our lives,” CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said in a statement Monday.
“Even from the outside looking in, Tom was definitely a person to aspire to be,” said Rashaan Davis, CHSAA’s first-ever assistant commissioner overseeing activities, in the CHSAA statement. “He always seemed cool, calm and collected, which is something I know I needed. So, to be a staff member now and understand that Tom laid the foundation for me being a Black male working at CHSAA and to be an educator coming into this role, to be patient and recognizing all voices at this level is very powerful. I don’t think anybody did it better.
“It feels like standing on the shoulders of a giant and hopefully the work we all do will continue his legacy,” Davis wrote.
This May would have marked Robinson’s 52nd wedding anniversary with Cleo Parker Robinson.
The couple founded Cleo Parker Robinson Dance the year they were married. Together, they established a beloved cultural institution in Denver and a dance company widely respected around the world. Robinson was one of Cleo’s biggest supporters and an essential figure in CPRD, where he served on the board of directors and worked as the company’s business manager for many years. He was instrumental in the company’s work to secure permanent headquarters for the company at the historic Shorter AME Building in Five Points.
“Tom has been the love of my life for over 60 years. The journey he and I have shared for over 50 years was destined to be,” Cleo Parker Robinson wrote in a statement. “We were devoted to one another in all things, to our family, our dreams, and our community. We always knew the other was close at hand in absolute love. I will carry his light in my heart forever.”
Robinson was a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora.
In 1969, he graduated from Colorado State University, where he had competed in football, basketball and track and field and earned the nickname “The Bomb” for his skills on the football field. He returned to Regis Jesuit as a teacher in 1969, where he taught math and coached multiple sports. Notably, he worked as Regis’ head basketball coach from 1983 to 1993. During his time there, he also served as the school’s first diversity director in the late 1990s, creating a program to support students from all backgrounds that is still running today.
“We were extremely saddened to hear of Tom Robinson’s passing. Our community had been praying for him recently after we learned of his health issues,” a representative for Regis Jesuit said. “Tom’s gentle and kind manner is the embodiment of the Ignatian principle of cura personalis – care for the individual – and his legacy will live on in our community as we continue to look to him as a model of what it means to be a Jesuit educator.”
Current Regis assistant principal for Mission, Ministry and Diversity, Saj Kabadi, remembers Robinson as a mentor.
“Tom Robinson is simply one of the finest human beings I have ever known,” Kabadi said. “No one had more of an influence on me in Catholic, Jesuit education than Tom. He always proceeded with tremendous grace, class and integrity. He had a wonderful infectious laugh and a tremendous love for his family.”
After 31 years working at Regis Jesuit, Robinson became a CHSAA assistant commissioner in 2001. Throughout his career, he also commissioned both high school and college football, earning a number of awards and honors, including the 2020 Lloyd Gaskill Award from the Colorado High School Coaches Association, the Outstanding Service Award from the Mountain West Conference and the John Adams Officiating Award, sponsored by the CHSAA, Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences. In 2008, he was named the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame’s Outstanding College Official.
Robinson is remembered for his commitment to helping others grow, succeed and achieve excellence.
In addition to his responsibilities overseeing CHSAA’s golf program and officials, Robinson helped to develop a sporting behavior program encouraging fans to “cheer for your time and not against your opponents.”
“Tom was an inspiration in so many ways,” CHSAA assistant commissioner Bethany Brookens said in a statement. “He taught me how to play golf, he and Cleo taught us all how to have a wonderful and successful marriage, he taught me the official mechanics for basketball and he gave me loyal friendship and a respect for all people. An incredible, ethical, good man and mentor; I miss Tom greatly already.”
Robinson is survived by his wife and their son Malik Robinson, executive director of CPRD. In lieu of flowers, Robinson’s family requests that donations be made to Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Information about a memorial celebration is forthcoming.
There will be a visitation for Tom Robinson at 119 Park Ave. West on April 13, from 5 – 8 p.m. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11 a.m. on April 15 at New Hope Baptist Church, 3701 Colorado Blvd. Check here for more information about in-person and virtual services.