I stumbled across Tom's name while working on my undergraduate thesis at Queen's University in Canada. It was a long shot but decided to send Tom a letter (no emails back then) asking him about graduate school and whether I could possibly join his lab before applying to grad school. Not expecting an answer back I didn't give it much thought until I received a large envelope with a copy of all of Tom's papers along with the nicest letter asking me to come out as a "visiting scholar". This, of course, was a non-paid position. It also meant moving all the way to California to volunteer in a lab. Any logical person would have turned that down but somehow I felt like it was a great opportunity, that if Tom was going to take the time and effort to mail me back the least I could do was at least visit. Sure enough, I made my way to the UCLA campus and to Tom's office and as we all know, he always likes to take his people for Dim Sum. Back then, I didn't know what it meant to make it to Dim Sum with Tom - it meant that he liked you! And that was the beginning of my adult life!
Tom was a major advocate to getting me into graduate school. I was his graduate student for 4 years. So many hours were spent on B-level working on the learned helplessness model. Tom loved that learned helplessness model! I remember going into his office and finding him deep in thought trying to come up with another project. He introduced me to Marty Seligman and to Steve Maier, two pioneers in the field of Psychology. He was proud of his lab and his work and he loved what he did.
Tom was always so encouraging. There was never an obstacle that we couldn’t overcome. Impossible was not part of his vocabulary. His students respected him, his graduate students looked up to him, and his colleagues valued him. He was a great man on so many levels.
My fondest memory was watching UCLA Basketball team win the National Championship in 1995! He will truly be missed. The man who would live forever, gone too young...
---Samar Saade Needham
In 1994, when I was an undergrad at UCLA, I was disinvited from a seminar I'd been accepted into and had to quickly find a replacement class for the next quarter. I chose something called Psychobiology of Fear and Anxiety, taught by Tom Minor. I loved the class and ended up working in Tom's lab when the quarter ended up until my graduation the next year. We knew that my grades were not strong enough to go directly into a doctorate program, so Tom encouraged me to attend CSULB and work with one of his colleagues there, then return to UCLA for a PhD in his lab. Thanks to his letter of recommendation, I completed the first two parts of our plan, and did eventually return to UCLA, but in an administrative capacity, beseeching Tom to kill me if I was still there in 5 years. He didn't take me up on that request and 15 years later, I run the office that supports the UCLA Animal Research Committee. While my path diverged from the original plan, I know I am where I am today because of Tom Minor.
Over the years, I would periodically communicate with Tom about his animal protocols. Any time his research went to the full Committee, I felt a sense of pride in the work. I also took great amusement from his direct and often sassy responses to Committee correspondence. In recent years, I would see Tom in the early hours, walking west around the campus, while I ran east. I'm not entirely sure he knew it was me, sweating and panting, but insisting on saying "Hi Tom" while we passed each other.
From the time I was an undergrad, to being a career employee 20+ years later, my UCLA has always included Tom Minor. I feel sad for the students who won't get a chance to learn directly from him, but appreciate that he lives on in his family and friends, his colleagues, and his contributions to humanity through his scientific endeavors.---Jennifer Perkins
When I think of people who I truly admire certain characteristic and attributes come to mind. These include: honesty, integrity, wisdom, courage, patience, selflessness, intelligence, altruism, inclusiveness, fairness, conviction, modesty, and sense of humor. Tom possessed these characteristics and more.
I joined the faculty in 1982 after completing my post-doc under Don Novin and Tom joined the department two years later. Tom was a wonderful addition to the department and to the Learning and Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience areas. He was completely devoted to his research and to his students. His relationship with students, both undergraduate and graduate, was particularly special. He was not only an effective mentor to them but also an avid supporter and friend. Students in his classes loved him not only for his knowledge and fairness but also for his sense of humor. He was commitment to students across the board, whether it be first-year students in his Fiat Lux seminar on the “Psychobiology of Stress Resilience” or his undergraduate and graduate students in learning courses, labs, and seminars.
Tom was a devoted departmental member and university citizen. He served on numerous departmental committees and actively participated in these committees. He also served on important Academic Senate Committees and the Chancellor’s Animal Research Committee. When faced with contentious and/or controversial issues, Tom was not afraid to speak his mind and to defend the principles that he believed in. He would weigh all the facts and try to come up with a balanced view or decision. This was apparent to me in area meetings, graduate admissions decisions, departmental faculty meetings and the like. We all know the university is a very hierarchical organization but he was not intimidated by one’s title or position. He wisely chose his battles and fought for what he believed was right or fair, gaining the respect of his colleagues and the administration.
Tom was a thoughtful, generous and kind man. It was not uncommon for me to be walking down the hall on the 8th floor of Franz, where we had our faculty offices, to find him visiting with one of the graduate students and sharing a good laugh or providing some friendly advice on research or teaching. He was unpretentious and treat all people with respect. He was a loving husband and father and good friend.
Tom was a very special person that gained the admiration of those who got to know him and certainly mine. We will all miss him dearly.