Manager of Video Production Center retires, plans for Alaska trip
After hitchhiking across the United States in 1971, Dave Tong intended to live in a tent behind the University of Idaho Administration building until he could move into the dorms to begin his freshman year.
Tong, current manager and senior producer for UI’s Video Production Center, ran across a professor before making it to his camping destination.
“I told him I was a new student, and he asked me what I was doing with the backpack and stuff,” Tong said. “I told him I was going to camp in the Arboretum until the dorms opened up. He didn’t think I should do that.”
The professor made a phone call and arranged for Tong to stay in Farmhouse, he said.
Tong said after hitchhiking to UI in 1971, he had no idea he would still be in Moscow more than four decades later. Tong will retire in June after more than 30 years of service to UI.
“I got to thinking, there was a phase where everyone knew me because I was track runner, and then a musician in a band,” Tong said, “I had no idea then that people would know me for doing video production. There’s still another 20 or 30 years, and I was kind of curious what the next phase would be and I’m not sure what (it) will be.”
Tong said retirement will take adjustment, but he wants to travel and spend time with his grandchildren. His first destination is Alaska after he retires in June.
Behind every football game, commencement ceremony, musical performance or large university event with a video feed during or after, Tong and his staff are in the shadows making it possible, said Jacob Cutshall, production specialist at UI’s Video Production Center.
Cutshall said Tong puts in several hours of work directing and producing video content, especially during major events like the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, an event where he works more than 60 hours a week.
Cutshall said Tong is still similar to the man he met about two decades ago — meticulous, detail-oriented and knowledgeable.
“You don’t work somewhere for 30-odd years without a lot of stuff being locked up in your head, information that’s just absorbed over that time,” Cutshall said. “He’s got detailed records, photos and diagrams of every major event for years — how he did it, what piece of equipment we hooked up where, run down scripts.”
Technological transition was a big part of his time on campus, Tong said.
He started editing tape decades ago, but in 1995 his department switched to editing on computers, Tong said.
A $2,300, nine-gigabyte hard drive from one of those computers now works as a door stop for his office.
“I think I got a sore wrist once we started editing on computers and stuff,” Tong said. “It was a little more tedious.”
Tong initially graduated from UI’s College of Natural Resources in 1975 with a degree in Wildlife Recreation.
Tong sorted his way through several jobs before finding his home at UI’s Video Production Center. From his two seasons as a law enforcement ranger in Yellowstone National Park to creating commercials and jingles for companies as a freelancer, it wasn’t until he earned his second degree in telecommunications in the late 1980s that he started producing video, he said.
Nearing graduation for his second degree, Tong said he was scheduled to interview for a job in instructional television. But at the same time, he finally heard back from the post office in Moscow after taking the postal service exam a few years ago when looking for a full-time job with benefits.
With a wife and four children at the time, the decision was difficult, Tong said.
“I met with the postmaster and he offered me this job, and I asked for a day to think about it because I realized I would have to stop doing video production,” Tong said. “On the other hand, it was a full-time job with benefits and the post office seemed like a pretty secure thing … That was a hard choice.”
Tong said he ended up turning down the post office job, and wasn’t accepted for the instructional television job. He finished his degree the next semester and started to work full-time at the communications department in UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Tong was hired in 1989 to the department he is currently in.
Tong said he told his wife he was considering retirement on Jan. 10 and was soon reminded how quickly things could change. He said he and his wife, Gloria, ate lunch at Arby’s that afternoon, and only a few hours later a shooter entered the establishment and killed the restaurant’s manager, just one incident in a string of shootings in Moscow that day that killed three and injured one.
The night before, Tong said he went to a movie where he stood in line and spoke with an old friend, Terri Grzebielski, another victim of the shooting.
“It made me think, things could change real quickly,” Tong said. “(The shooting) wasn’t really related, but it helped solidify things.”
Jake Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org