Memories of Tom Tillman
02 April 2004 (online)
When I first arrived at Northwestern University as a graduate student in audiology in the summer of 1961, I worked for Dr. Tillman in the Auditory Research Laboratory. I quickly learned from him the demands for exactitude in research. Data entry onto large data pads (long before computer spreadsheets) had to be complete, and its accuracy checked at least twice or thrice. Entry of data from long columns of numbers for calculations of sums and sums of squares for use in statistical analyses with the Friedman or Monroe Calculators had to yield exactly the same values from at least two repetitions before the values could be accepted as correct. Figures prepared with the aid of a LeRoy lettering set (again long before computer generated graphics) for publications or oral presentations had to be precise, neat, and clearly legible when reduced in size in a publication, or when projected on a screen in a classroom or large auditorium. As I worked in the Auditory Research Laboratory throughout that summer and later, Dr. Tillman was very patient and understanding of my sometimes slow progress in completing a given task. Whenever I encountered what I thought was a serious problem or concern with a test procedure or result, I always felt that I could ask for his advice, even if that necessitated a call to his home late at night or during the weekend.
Later, during my graduate studies, I was preparing a manuscript to submit for publication and Dr. Tillman graciously offered to review it prior to its submission. I gratefully accepted his offer. He returned it to me a few days later and suggested that I look it over and see him in a day or two to discuss his comments. At first glance I saw “Awk” written in numerous places in the margins and within the text. My first thought was that Dr. Tillman literally had thrown up all over my manuscript. A few pages into the manuscript, he had written “Awkward” in the margin. After inspecting that particular paragraph and then reconsidering his notations of “Awk” elsewhere, I deduced that “Awk” was his abbreviation for awkward. Upon my review of the sentences and paragraphs that had earned those notations, it was clear to me that those sentences and paragraphs indeed were clumsy and awkward. At other points, I noticed an emphatic “No!” interspersed with an occasional “Good” or “Good point.” He also had marked all the split infinitives, split verbs, and unattached antecedents in the text. Thanks to Dr. Tillman's help, that manuscript was accepted for publication, as were others he kindly reviewed for me before I submitted them for consideration for publication. After completing my graduate studies, Tom and I, as audiology faculty colleagues at Northwestern University, co-authored a few articles as well as a chapter in an audiology book.
When I was being considered for a position in the Section of Audiology (now Division of Audiology) at Mayo Clinic, Tom was asked to write a letter of recommendation for me. After I had accepted that position and my family and I had moved to Rochester, Minnesota, I received a letter from him in which he kindly enclosed a copy of his letter of recommendation. I was touched deeply by his thoughtfulness in this act and the content of his letter. I still have and cherish that letter.
Tom Tillman first was my supervisor, quickly became a mentor, and then a colleague. He was always kind, patient, and understanding, and a friend in the truest possible sense of that word.
For the reasons briefly cited above and many other pleasant memories of Tom Tillman, I extend a sincere thank you to Catherine Palmer for inviting me to serve as guest editor for this issue of Seminars in Hearing. Also, I express here deep appreciation to the authors of the articles herein. When I called them and described our intent in commemorating Tom Tillman, each agreed without a moment's hesitation to contribute an article and a tribute and, in keeping with his legacy of honoring and meeting time lines, completed their articles and tributes in a timely manner.