Bill Quinn, also known as “Willie Joe” as a youngster, was a long-standing colleague of Hook’s. Bill was part of the hiring committee that brought Allan to St. Edward’s University more than 25 years ago. I’m not sure if Willie Joe realizes it but he and Jimmy Mills (and the St. Ed’s indoor swimming pool) were the reasons Hook accepted their job offer over a school in South Carolina … way back in 1988. Over the years, Hook looked to Bill as his ethical and sometimes moral compass. If Bill was on board with a decision, it must be the right thing to do.
Because Hook trusted him and because he was Catholic and because we all had a good sense of humor, Hook and I asked Bill to take the bold and daring $35, online step to become our ordained minister. Twice, Bill brought Darwinism and Catholicism together — once during our marriage ceremony and again when he presided over Hook’s memorial service. The things men do for each other.
Two of My Favorite Hook Stories by Bill Quinn
Wasps and Kids at Blue Hole: Back when we were the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, somebody swung a faculty party over at Blue Hole near Wimberley. Allan had probably been here for two years at the most. At the most. He was not all that obvious at the social scene, not because he was being rude, but he had to go out and check the area for his “girls.” My kids caught wind that he was up to something wonderful, and they asked me to ask him if they could come along and hunt wasps with him. I expected him to be reluctant to take a couple of 6 – 8 year olds around with him, but he just lit up at the idea. About an hour later they returned, and it was my kids who were lit up. He mesmerized them, and they recall the day still, telling how much the loved that time. They (and I) have marveled at insects ever since. On many occasions, people marvel at how good he is with kids, as if it is some revelation. He has always been good with kids.
My kids especially liked the way he would swear when he mistook a male for a female and got his hand stung. In fact, he did apologize to me later that evening at Blue Hole in case he had taught my kids any new words. Fat chance – they were already way beyond what even Hook had to say. He could teach them about wasps but he couldn’t teach them much when it came to swearing. Colin, my younger son, came here for a semester and deeply regretted that he was not here for a semester when Hook taught freshman biology, but I think Al did ultimately play a role in him pursuing biology as a career.
From Dr. Hook to Dr. Mellow: Makes me laugh every time I think about it. We had two teaching labs on the second floor of Fleck, 200 and 210. For some reason, 200 had a window that opened into Jimmy Mills’ office. Crazy design! Anyway, sometimes we had to use 200 as a lecture room, since lecture space has always been tight around here. On several occasions when he taught in 200 (and I mean several) Al would start going off on the students, especially when he returned tests that they had screwed up on. His ranting was actually very effective. I know for a fact that it turned the attitudes of at least three subsequently very “successful” people who needed some serious course corrections. They got some serious “advice” from him, that’s for sure! Well, it might have been effective, and well-thought out, but it was also as entertaining as hell. He would start with just a slight comment and then it would build and build. By the time he got going, he would be telling them about how they dressed, carried themselves, probably what they ate for breakfast or watched on TV. It was GREAT theater. I am pretty sure he never had any idea that several of us would stand out in the hallway, often clued in by Jimmy’s foresight, and just keep hoping he wouldn’t stop.
Ah, those were the days. Anybody will tell you that then the fool had to go get married, and goodbye to the rants. Dr. Hook became Dr. Mellow. Oh, and the equally funny yet regrettable thing is that Al would always (ALWAYS) feel bad about yelling at the students. That’s BS; he should have been yelling at them. He was right! But he always always apologized to them. You could set your watch by it. Touching. But very funny. I wish you could have seen him just crescendo. I miss those days more than I can tell you.
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More from Rosemary:
My apologies for the delayed Hook Stories. I got sidetracked. Okay, that’s not true. I couldn’t get out of bed, and when I did (had to) pretend that I was still part of the human race, it took all of my energy to stay focused on the simplest of tasks. Posting a blog felt monumental so I mentally declined. This inertia was how I began the now passed Thanksgiving weekend and how I ended it. But in between the beginning and the end of that holiday, which I spent on a clouded coast in Port Aransas, there was at least one ray of sunlight that peeked through the overcast sky for the briefest of moments as I walked along the beach. It was this sliver of hope that let me know: all was not lost even if it still felt like it was. But then, of course, I had to whisk myself back to reality and Austin, and the clouds returned permanently.
This week, I’m giving a talk to a group of job seekers titled, Transcending the Holidays When You’re Suffering a (Job) Loss. I feel desperate to kick start some adrenaline into my days, because the four cups of Ruta Maya coffee I’ve been drinking every morning aren’t working. I’m going to stand in front of 150 professionals and tell my story, then connect the dots for them on how losing a job and losing a spouse have odd similarities. I’ll share what they can do — must do — to move forward. I signed up to speak because I knew that if I didn’t make this work commitment, and all the other commitments I’ve been forcing onto my calendar in December, that I will continue watching endless, streaming Netflix from my pillow wondering: how long can I really go without a shower.
I’m trying my best until the light returns …
WATCH YNN AUSTIN interview about Hook
READ about Hook Wild Basin Endowment
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