Tommy the Traveler Podcast Miniseries

Tommy the Traveler

In 1968, with the ongoing war in Vietnam and the associated draft, many college campuses were active sites for the anti-war movement and related protests. On the Hobart and William Smith campus, where there were regular anti-war demonstrations, the arrival of Tommy Tongyai triggered a series of unforgettable events.

Tongyai, also known as "Tommy the Traveler," allegedly working as a government agent for the Ontario County Sheriff, infiltrated the student body in an effort to arrest student protesters. He was, as HWS Trustee Dr. Richard L. Wasserman '70 says, an "agent provocateur." Tommy's actions would eventually lead to the firebombing of the ROTC Office in the basement of Sherrill Hall and the midnight drug raid of Superdorm (known today as JPR). In the aftermath, the Colleges were featured on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and in The New York Times. Now, almost 50 years later, the era is being revisited.

Throughout the summer of 2019, a miniseries from The Seneca Scene -- a podcast from the student-run Herald -- dove into one of the most altering times in America and its effect on HWS with more than 20 interviews from people on campus at the time, including students and faculty, archival research, and video interviews from a 1971 documentary directed by Marc Weiss '69.

"I don't know where [Tommy] came from, or why he was there to incite everybody to do all this stuff," Shirley Napolitano Banker '72 says. "I didn't have any idea. Before that we were just doing our normal protest stuff and going to classes."

The series emerged from a conversation between former Interim President Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. '12 and then Herald Editor-in-Chief Alex Kerai '19. Intrigued by the Tommy incident, Kerai assembled a team of students, including Albright Dwarka '21, Henry Duerr '21, Russell Payne '21 and Grace Ruble '21, to help research and plan the series, which he led and produced. "It was an incredible opportunity to interview people who were on campus at this time," Kerai says, "because you realize how real history is."

To listen to the miniseries, go to or search for The Seneca Scene wherever you get your podcasts.