A tribute to a man who played a pivotal part in my academic endeavours; may you rest in peace Tom Allen, your life was taken way too soon. He was a teacher, a mentor and a very kind person who gave more than he took. He cared deeply, and passionately, about restorative justice, and he cared deeply about those who were caught in the web of the criminal justice system. As a teacher of Criminology at Kawntlen Polytechnic University, he toughed many, and touched our lives in his classes. I will never forget my time in his classes, and the knowledge and wisdom he passed onto me. After almost a year of fighting leukaemia, he passed away on August 28, 2014.
I wanted to blog about him becuase he was one of the few people who impacted my life in a very positive way while I was an undergrad. He took me aside one day while I was in my third year, to ask me how I was doing after I had written and submitted a paper which I had blasted through becuase of lack of time from my busy schedule. He want to help me, so he reached out. I remember him taking me into the staff lunch room, where it was dimly lit, but very clean and well maintained, and I was thinking that I should not be here. He sat me there and took out my paper out from his bag and said that he could not mark it becuase he knew that I could have done ten times better as compared to my previous papers written earlier on in his class. I explained to him that with work, and other assignments that my time was stretched to the limit, and rather receiving a zero for that assignment, I would “throw a hail Marry” and write the paper that morning. He said, “No, you are going to rewrite it, as I am going to give everyone in the class a second chance because you are not the only one, …but for you, this is out of character.” I did rewrite the paper, as did everyone else in the class, and my mark was substantially grater than before.
My last encounter with him was at my graduation. As I walked across the stage to receive my BA, and greet the Dean, plus the photo op., and just as I walked off the stage, Tom, and one other Prof stood up from their chairs and walked over me. While on stage, they came over to me and shook my hand saying, “well done–you did it!” They were smiling and their faces glowed with excitement. When I sat down, all the graduates around me were asking what that was all about. They said the Dean stopped and paused, looking at what was going at the back of the stage while I was up there. I just told them that I got the true hand shake from my profs.
I first heard of the news on Twitter back on Tuesday from a current student who said that the university emailed everyone of the news, so I emailed the Faculty of Criminology at KPU. The secretary replied, and she gave me a copy of the email. It reads:
Dear Criminology Students,
I’m very sorry to be writing this email and it comes with immeasurable sadness and grief. Our friend, colleague and teacher, Tom Allen, died on August 28th, 2014. Tom was diagnosed with Leukemia nine months ago. Tom didn’t want a lot of pain or to suffer and that was what he was facing. He’s now at peace. He spent his last days surrounded by colleagues, friends, and family.
Tom was KPU Criminology’s social justice heart and soul. He was one of the most vulnerable/courageous and authentic human beings I had the pleasure of knowing. I also know that Tom loved teaching. He cherished connecting with students and challenging and transforming their perspectives. Tom was deeply compassionate and strived to make the world a better place through his students. He was going to retire a few years ago, but always returned because he loved teaching and the relationships he formed with students. Over the years, many students told me that they stayed at KPU because of Tom. His irreverence, humour, passion for social and transformative justice and ability to connect with everyone in a heartfelt way will be deeply missed by students and faculty alike.
Tom was resilient. He would want all of you to go into class this week, connect and engage empathetically with each other and the material and breathe life into your journeys. And tell ‘Tom stories’…there are lots of them. Please also reach out to each other, and to the members of our faculty.
A celebration of life is being planned and I will relay the information as soon as I have it.
Tom lead by example, and taught by conviction, sharing his life with us in those classes. He reminded us that we are human, and that through our humanity we can have a society that is caring and tolerant, but above all else, having equality and understanding as its foundation. I will never forget him, and a part of him will always be with me.