NMSR Member Tom Manaster passed away suddenly on January 4th, 2001.

Tom Manaster, 1945-2001


 Left-to-right: John Geohegan (VP, NMSR), Genie Scott (Executive Director, NCSE), Tom Manaster, and Ken Frazier (editor, Skeptical Inquirer). Photo taken December 2, 1998, by Dave Thomas.

From: "Weiss, Jonathan D" <jdweissATsandia.gov>
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 11:37:35 -0700
Subject: The Death of Tom Manaster

I have just been informed by Pat Manaster, Tom Manaster's wife, that Tom died of a heart attack at about 11:00 P.M. last night. No doubt, you all have known him, at the very least, through his email comments to this group. Some have known him more personally, as a result of serving with him on the CESE Board a couple of years ago. Some may have met him at the annual meetings of CESE. Tom and I have been good friends since the early 1980s, when I met him at the Unitarian Church. In fact, I just had lunch with him yesterday. He said that he had not been feeling well for about 24 hours, had a constant chill, and had slept for most of that time. I wish I knew then that those sensations could be an indication of an impending heart attack. I have lost a good friend. I will miss Tom Manaster.

If any of you would like to send a letter of condolence to his widow, his address is 2830 Sierra Dr., NE 87110. No funeral is planned.


Jon Weiss

Jonathan D. Weiss, Ph.D.

Sandia National Laboratories

A Tribute from Kim Johnson

Tom Manaster was always thinking. He could drive you nuts trying to figure out where he was coming from. But, he was a philosopher - a history buff. He took classes at UNM to keep learning - something few of us do. Furthermore, he shared what he had learned with us.

In fact, It seemed as if the sharing may have given him as much or more pleasure than the learning, at times. He was amenable to revising his thinking to accommodate new or different viewpoints. He was gentle and kind when he shared his new insights. He tried not to be dogmatic, and took great care to listen to others' opinions. I don't know that I have ever met a person more kind or more anxious to help others.

 Tom had some pretty good ideas. His "Distant Learning" concept was great. He worked on it and helped to get the process going in New Mexico. Perhaps, someday, there will be a student or group of students in a small town in rural New Mexico who will learn advanced chemistry through the televised teaching that Tom worked so hard on because of a lack of expertise to cover all the bases outside of the big school districts.

 I will remember Tom for a number of things, but most of all, I remember what he did at the October 1999 State School Board meeting.

Most of you will recall that was the meeting in which the State Board of Education put evolution back into the state science standards.

When it came time for public input, there were a couple of creationists and even more scientists who spoke. We, CESE, had several speakers. I remember giving what I thought was a rather passionate plea for the correction of the standards. But, when it was Tom's turn, I learned what passion was. Tom took a different approach. Several years earlier, he had surgery to remove a brain tumor. It had left one side of his face with an obvious droop to it, but it prolonged his life, and he made great usage of that extra time. When he spoke to the board, he didn't speak of evidence, or laws - he spoke of trust in the scientific method that allowed the doctors to derive a treatment that would allow him to survive an otherwise fatal brain tumor. He spoke of the scientists whom he trusted because he was experiencing the results of their work. He asked why anyone would not let the scientists decide and teach the science and methods that had saved his life. He allowed that all had a right to their own beliefs, but that none had a right to deny the effectiveness of scientific accomplishments which included the formulation and testing of the theory of evolution.

 I cannot begin to deliver Tom's exact words or his delivery. But, while he was delivering that speech, I was behind him and was watching the School Board. Almost to a person, their eyes were glistening with tears. Some wiped a few off their cheeks. I don't think they felt sorry for Tom - I think they heard his message. It was powerful.

 Tom's speech, in and of itself, probably did not cause the Board to vote evolution back in that day. But, he most surely put the icing on the cake.

 Wherever he may now be, I hope he is aware that he had a positive impact on the world and sincerely hope he is getting to enjoy some of that icing.

 M. Kim Johnson


I am very sorry to hear this news. What I remember best also about Tom, as Kim said, was his testimony before the SBE. He said something to the effect that no one cared what religion his doctors were. Because of the good science/medical education they had, they saved his life. Of all the testimony given that day, I also believe his had the most impact on the board.

Marilyn Savitt-Kring

Kim wrote a beautiful tribute, and one which was richly deserved. Tom was indeed "one of a kind". ...

What I most remember about Tom was his unfailing courtesy, even when he disagreed with someone. I will never be able to copy him, but for his memorial, I'm going to try to approach him. No more sarcasm. No more hostility. If I find something wrong, I promise to let you know privately. If I disagree, I will try to do so with as much civility as I can command.

Walt Murfin

Dear Pat and Ducks,

I have been fortunate to have avoided being in a war and to have had grandparents with the foresight to leave Europe before the holocaust. So my experiences with death have been mostly with friends and relatives. But each loss has been extremely painful.

I write this with tears clouding my eyes. I loved Tom Manaster. I will miss him terribly. I will miss his frequent musings, his strong declarative sentences, his quickness to apologize, his humility, his concern for those around him and the world, his never-ending search for truth and knowledge. I never saw a person disfigured by massive surgery. Rather, looking at Tom, I only saw this sweet, gentle, extremely caring man. I looked straight into his heart, and loved the soul I saw.

I am so pleased that Tom joined the Ducks. This non-scientist with the inquisitive mind added heart and soul to our group.And,in turn, I believe that the Ducks added meaning and value to Tom’s life. I fondly recall our thread on “Ducks and Swans.” And Tom indeed was a swan.

Death is so final and so utterly unacceptable to me. Yet we are faced with the reality of finite lives and even a finite universe. Each life is a rock, a pebble, or a grain of sand. When finally cast into the waters, all that is left are ripples…. and all the ripples eventually fade, regardless of the size of the splash…. and we are finally left only with memories.

Life is very precious, but in our daily lives it sometimes takes the death of a beloved friend to reorient ourselves, to decide what’s really important.

I have been too busy to even keep up with all the things I have to do. But I cannot let the passing of an earthly angel go unnoticed.

Tom and I often communicated privately about disagreements and agreements. I have kept all these correspondences. Last July, I wrote to Tom: “You're a very good man, Tom Manaster! It is an honor to know you.”

I don't believe in an afterlife, though I would love for it to be true. If it is, Tom is in heaven, smiling as always, and planning to take his next class in philosophy.

Tom, with great sadness, adieu.

Marshall Berman

Once again I am humbled by the realization of what kind of people I'm privileged to be associated with in this organization. The sensitive, articulate and eloquent tributes to Tom demonstrate that any judgment that scientists or scientifically-minded people are cool, overly objective, etc. is a sad misperception.

I wouldn't even think of trying to add to the words from Jon Weiss, Kim Johnson and Marshall Berman. Except: Goodbye, Tom, and thank you.

Jerry and Nancy Shelton

Tom was a humanist in the best sense of the word, and brought a perspective that is crucial to our endeavors. I will miss him.

Tim Moy


I have taken the liberty to copy here Tom Manaster's obituary, as it appears on page C8 of the Albuquerque Journal for January 9th, 2001. It speaks of the very full life of a man with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which he pursued right up to the end. His early death reminds us to express our love now, and do good now, because tomorrow may be too late

Harry Murphy


MANASTER -- Tom Manaster, 56, died January 4th after an unexpected heart attack. He is remembered with deep love by his wife, Pat; his beloved son, David, and wife, Patricia; grandchildren, Sophie and Naomi. Also grieving are his brother, Steve, and wife B.J. and children, Tracy and Katy Rose; as well as Tom's mother, Estelle; his brother, Charles II and many special friends. Tom was active in CESE (Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education) and the Day-breakers Toastmasters. He enjoyed swimming, golf, camping, wildlife, travel, talking with friends, and was a voracious reader. Before graduating from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, Tom attended the University of Chicago Lab School. He received a BA in American Literature from the University of Illinois/Chicago. In the late 1970's, he participated in Chicago poet Paul Carroll's writing workshop. He taught high school in inner city Chicago, monitored federal employment and training programs, and drove a taxicab in both Chicago and Albuquerque. He also raised his son David for many years as a single parent. He later took postgraduate courses at the University of New Mexico in economics, anthropology, communications and American studies, and participated in the Southwest Writer's Workshop. He was a man of integrity who constantly sought knowledge and understanding and cared deeply about the environment and other social issues. He touched many lives in a special way.

I am with Walt. Tom was a gentle man who probably had more hardship to endure than most of us. I think the best tribute to Tom is to try treat others as gently as Tom did. I will also miss Tom very much.

Mark Boslough

What I'll remember fondly is Tom's enthusiasm for ideas, and his happy eagerness to comprehend and enjoy it all. The last time I saw Tom, we were handing out flyers for Rhonda King up in Tijeras. He was cheerful throughout, and we had a great time talking about politics, genetic algorithms, and such, all while trying to find the next street. I will also miss him a lot.

Dave Thomas

Tom's posts over the last few months have encouraged us again and again to listen to the "other side" to try to understand, to try to reach common ground. I've been thinking that this is a beautiful legacy and we must never forget it. It is truly the only way we'll make a difference.

Cindy Chapman