Students of recently retired psychology professor William Tooke were flabbergasted by his sudden death last month.
PSUC alumna Amanda Gibson first met Tooke when she decided to take his History and Modern systems of psychology class. Their first interaction involved Tooke asking the class what the point of existence was. Gibson, who believed that psychology fields’s purpose was to help others and make an impact in there lives, was thrown off by the question and Tooke’s answer being there is no point of existence at all.
“[The class] would always fight his really strong opinions,” Gibson said. “Typically, he would always be respectful of other opinions.”
Gibson said she butted heads with Tooke at times but appreciated him for his other qualities. Because of his beliefs, Tooke forced his students to really think about their own beliefs.
Tooke grew close with the students of that class.
PSUC psychology professor Wendy Braje grew close to Tooke as she shared many bottles of scotch with him.
“He was very strong about his opinion and enjoyed discussing them with people of all different viewpoints,” Braje said. “He enjoyed the debate.”
Braje met Tooke when she started working at PSUC in 1999. When in an interview for her position, Tooke was the only one to understand a vague “Star Trek” references she made. The two quickly became friends and shared many Thanksgivings together.
“If I had not been influenced by Dr. Tooke, I would not be on the path of getting my PH.D,” PSUC alumna and SUNY New Paltz professor of psychology Haley Dillon. “He was my mentor.”
Dillon first interacted with Tooke while taking the same class as Gibson.Dillon described Tooke as prodigious. He was always willing to support his students as long as they wanted to learn.
“He woke something up in me to never stop learning,” Dillon said. “He took pleasure in nurturing students who wanted to learn.”
After passing Tooke’s class, which was said to be the hardest class in the psychology department, Dillon’s relationship with tooke did not end. The two kept in contact well after Dillon’s graduation in 2008. When she was presenting to a committee for her PH.D, Tooke drove five hours just to sit in.
“He was always there for me,” Dillon said.
Dillon said she has become closer with Tooke’s daughter Katharine Tooke since his death. She considers Katharine Tooke a sibling instead of a friend. Katharine Tooke was William Tooke’s world.
“Many people will remember William Tooke for the influence he had on them when he was their teacher or colleague. To me, he was just “Dad,” Katharine Tooke said. “I will remember him every time I look in the mirror. I will remember him coaching my elementary school basketball team and filming my penalty kick shootouts and musicals in high school. I will remember him when I show my future children the movie “Balto” and at Thanksgiving tell them how my dad and I would fight over who got the gizzard. I could go on and on with all of the things that added up to my dad; I will remember all of these things and so much more. But as a whole, your Dr. Tooke was just my dad, and that was enough.”