small logo Remembering:

Prof. Allen Tough
by H. Paul Shuch, Executive Director Emeritus

One of the most creative voices in the SETI field has been silenced. Prof. Allen Tough died of pneumonia on 27 April 2012, at the age of 76. With his passing, not only has science lost a brilliant mind; I have lost a dear friend.

For more than four decades, Allen Tough, Ph.D., was globally recognized as a pioneering scholar in adult learning, self-directed growth, and personal change. His seminal contributions to the field date back to the 1960s, and his research illuminated adults' successful efforts to learn and change. More than 90 major studies in eleven countries were based on Tough's early work.

Tough's inquiry contributed to an expansion of the dialogue on adult learning to include self-directed learning. He was instrumental in catalyzing movement from research focused primarily on who participates in organized adult education, to one which embraces the entire range of intentional adult learning.

Allen Tough wrote seven books and numerous articles and papers over the span of his career. His book The Adult's Learning Projects was chosen as one of the ten classical books in adult education. He was named "one of six most often used authors" in a survey of the Adult Education Association in 1978. Allen received The Malcolm Knowles Memorial Award for significant lifelong contribution to the field of self-directed learning in 2006. later the same year, he was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame.

In addition to his studies on the adult learner, Tough was an active researcher in the fields of futures studies and the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). His book Crucial Questions About the Future was translated into Spanish and Chinese. He coordinated the World Future Society's Web forum on future generations, and was recognized as a Fellow of the World Futures Studies Federation, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the British Interplanetary Society.

In 1997, after 33 years as a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Allen Tough decided to retire early, that he might devote the balance of his time and energy to his research interests. In the SETI field, Allen founded the internet-based Invitation to ETI initiative in 1996. This project ultimately grew to a worldwide network of 100 scientists, futurists, artists and thinkers, whose members continue to contemplate interstellar contact.

Allen was a SETI League Charter Member, an active member of the SETI Permanent Study Group of the International Academy of Astronautics, established and underwrote the Billingham Cutting Edge Lectures presented at the annual International Astronautical Congress, edited the online academic journal Contact in Context, initiated that journal's Best Ideas Awards (one of which I was honored to receive), was founding chair of the SETI League's Strategic Planning Committee, and served as a SETI League volunteer Regional Coordinator. The SETI League honored Allen Tough in 2003 with its Orville Greene Service Award.

Since 2000, when he began exhibiting symptoms of Multiple System Atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder initially misdiagnosed as Parkinson's Disease, Allen continued to make significant intellectual contributions to his three chosen fields of research: adult learning, futures studies, and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence. Those contributions will be sorely missed by researchers in all three fields. During the last few days of his life, despite having lost the ability to communicate verbally, Allen was actively involved in the analysis of a still unverified SETI candidate detection.

The SETI League extends its profound sympathies to Allen's spouse, Cathy Rand, his daughter Susan, and his son Paul.

Allen's sage advice and warm friendship have had a profound influence on my personal and professional lives. For the rest of my days, I shall continue to feel his hand on my shoulder, gently guiding me.

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