04 May, 2006

Dr. Shawn Allin

I regret to inform the community that Dr. Shawn Allin was found unconscious in his office this morning and was taken to Spring Hill Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

All of us who loved Shawn - his parents, family members, colleagues and students - mourn the loss of this superb teacher who was truly a man for others.

Our community will gather for a memorial service at 5:00 p.m. today in St. Joseph Chapel, followed by a gathering in the Cloister at approximately 5:30 p.m. for those who wish to share support.

Greg Lucey, SJ
Spring Hill College

Dr. Allin was the first friend I made at Spring Hill College.  I was a somewhat older incoming freshman; at 21, I was still too young to be considered an 'adult' student, and far too old to really fit in with the other freshmen.

My very first class was General Chemistry, with Dr. Shawn Allin.  He was new to Spring Hill then, as was I, and the two of us hit it off immediately.  On the very first day, he sent me home with two of his books: a pop science by John Gribbin and a collection of SciAm articles by Stephen Jay Gould.  I stayed up half the night reading both of them, and returned them first thing the next morning.  I still remember the smile he gave me then: "Eric," he started, in his distinct Canadian accent, "I anticipate this will be the start of a great friendship."

More than any other teacher at Spring Hill, Shawn gave me guidance.  He introduced me to a favorite hobby of his: paleontology; and I subsequently spent a summer in the Dakota badlands digging up trike bones in the gumbo buttes.  When I started straying from science (physics and math was my thing back then) and turning toward philosophy, he was there for me.  He helped me adjust to the idea of keeping true to what I felt drawn toward, and argued philosophy of science with me a number of times.

Shawn went through a lot.  His divorce shocked me; Lynn was a common sight on campus, as she was getting an undergraduate degree.  That she left him immediately after graduating...  .:sigh:.  One cannot help but to wonder if she stayed with him near the end just to get the free tuition.  And finding out that he was leaving Spring Hill at the same time as I... ...

There is a part of me that wishes to say that I hope his death was the path he chose, rather than the path that some random occurence took him in.  I know this sounds strange, but the part of me that wishes to share that thought is somehow more significant than all the other parts of me put together.

Dr Allin was a great teacher.  Shawn was a great friend.  Maybe it was not premeditated.  Maybe it was.  I cannot say for sure.  But if it was...  I think there is some part of me that somewhat understands why he chose as he did.

I will miss you, Shawn.  Thank you for all you ever did for me.

Note: A follow-up to this was posted in March 2021.