A teacher to the very end

Even in the waning moments of his life, Thomas Tighe did what he knew best: teach.

Tighe, former USF provost and professor, died Wednesday night after suffering a heart attack late last week. He was 74.

It was on a bed in a hospital earlier this week where Tighe imparted some of his wisdom to those closest to him, said friend and coworker, Catherine Batsche, USF vice provost.

Batsche said Tighe was fairly healthy before his heart attack Jan. 9. In fact, Tighe didn’t think much of the chest pains he experienced that day. He came to work. It wasn’t until Friday that doctors told him he had suffered a heart attack.

But going to work even after a heart attack didn’t really surprise Batsche. Tighe, more than anything, she said, was intense.

“He was the hardest-working person I’ve ever known,” Batsche said.

He was someone, she said, who could never know enough, someone who loved gaining and dispersing knowledge.

And in the few days he had to come to terms with his life when he realized the end was nearing, he did just that, Batsche said.

“He made the comment, ‘How many people could spend 74 Christmases with people they love?'” she said.

He also told Batsche that he couldn’t have lived a better life than one where he spent a good deal of time in a university setting.

Tighe came to USF in 1995, becoming the school’s provost and executive vice president. He was the first to ever hold both positions at USF simultaneously.

Tighe had more than 40 years of experience in higher education, dating back to 1959 when he received his doctorate in psychology from Cornell. Five years later, he joined the faculty at Dartmouth, and in 1977 he became chairman of the psychology department.

Before coming to USF, Tighe spent time at the University of Texas at Dallas and was provost for the University of Connecticut.In the fall of 1999, Tighe served as acting president for USF while the university searched for a candidate to replace Betty Castor. In fact, Tighe himself eventually became a candidate for president, but was passed up in favor of Judy Genshaft.

When Genshaft took over, Tighe stepped down to teach and conduct brain-related research. He appointed S. David Stamps as his replacement.

Stamps said he’ll remember Tighe as a problem-solver who attacked his job and genuinely enjoyed working.

Stamps said Tighe played a critical role in USF’s transition to a Research I university. When Tighe took over as provost more than seven years ago, USF was characterized Research II.

In 1985, Tighe was named a fellow in the American Association of the Advancement of Science, a distinction, Batsche said, he was proud of.

In addition to authoring scores of research papers, Tighe wrote five books. The last book, which he recently finished, was scheduled for publication in the near future, but he had not yet finished the index. Batsche said, before Tighe died, he wanted to be sure that someone finished up the index. His two children, Lisa and Mark, will take on that task so the book can come out on time, she said.

In addition to his children, Tighe is also survived by his wife, Lisa, who co-authored many of his scholarly papers and is also an established psychologist.

In the end, it is the wisdom Tighe passed on in his closing days that Batsche will remember. Though his death was quick and unexpected, he, nevertheless, was equally expeditious in reflecting on his life, she said.

“To me, he was teaching even after he was ill,” Batsche said. “Even after his heart attack, he was teaching us how to live by teaching us how to die.”