NIU mourns William Tolhurst

William Tolhurst
William Tolhurst

William Tolhurst—a veteran professor in the NIU Department of Philosophy who was well known for his sharp intellect, joyful personality and service to the university—died Thursday, Sept. 15, in DeKalb. He was 64.

Tolhurst had retired just last year after 33 years of service to NIU, including eight years as chair of the Department of Philosophy.

“Those of us who knew Bill at his best knew him as one of the best,” David Buller, chair of the philosophy department, writes in a memorial notice about Tolhurst.

Buller remembers his friend as a man with a giddy and infectious laugh who brought “a boundless intellectual energy and boyish enthusiasm to all philosophical discussions.”

In addition, Buller says, Tolhurst was a “difference maker” who advocated for justice and common sense and provided leadership to his department, as well as to the wider NIU community as a longtime member of the University Council.

An expert who had published well-known articles on aesthetics, epistemology and ethics—all branches of philosophy—Tolhurst’s work attracted students of philosophy to NIU. He also collaborated with the College of Business to launch the Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Applied Ethics.

“In every role he played within the university, he gave his all, and he became known by his colleagues throughout the university community as a first-class citizen,” Buller says. “Bill also had one of the sharpest and quickest philosophical minds I have ever encountered.”

Tolhurst earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Connecticut.

He was a member of the American Philosophical Association, and was president of the Illinois Philosophical Association from 1993 to 1995. He also was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Tolhurst also was, above all, “a devoted husband and father,” Buller adds. Tolhurst is survived by his wife, Diane Tolhurst of DeKalb; his daughter, Abigail Christiansen of Lafayette, Ind., and his son, Michael Tolhurst of DeKalb.

A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Newman Catholic Student Center, 512 Normal Road, with Fr. Alejandro del Toro celebrating. Burial will follow at Fairview Park Cemetery in DeKalb. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Anderson Funeral Home, 2011 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

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