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Irving Alexander: Tomkins as Presenter

When lecturing to undergraduates, he was a model of simplicity and clarity. He would make five or six points during a class, scrawling them on the board in outline fashion as he progressed. It was with professional audiences that he encountered problems. Frequently he would become so fascinated with the Implications of a spontaneous example that he would not get beyond the halfway mark in a presentation. The audience would be aware that they had heard something special but might have trouble in identifying the central point. I recall the pleasure he experienced many years later when he finally solved this dilemma. It was at the annual meeting of the Society for Personology (a group which he helped found) in the late 1980s. He began his hour-long presentation with a clear set of conclusions and then proceeded to derive some of them in his leisurely, winding fashion. His joy over the outcome was apparent. The impact on his audience was profound.

He possessed one of the most active minds I have ever encountered. I harbor an image of him with an overloaded brain flooding him with information, new ideas and profound insights, all at the same time. The big problem was how to contain and manage such riches. This image was supported by some of his consistent and predictable behavior. I can recall how he entered every lecture or seminar class laden with reams of notes which he would lay out with care never to return to again but rather to create new notes as he talked. I always felt the gesture was symbollic of the overload he carried–in his arms and in his brain.

Irving Alexander was the author of “Personology” published by Duke University Press in 1990.