A Phenomenal Life
Friday, January 18, 2008
By Kimberly Sikes
Flying high-speed low-altitude reconnaissance, jumping out of airplanes with the Army, serving with the Royal Air Force.
“It’s been a phenomenal life,” Associate Professor of Art Tony Alley said in a January 2007 interview.
Alley did all of these things during the course of his life. Alley
passed away on Tuesday morning after a year-long battle with cancer.
Though Alley did many different things in his life, his passion was
teaching. He loved to be with his students and helped make their
experience here a better one.
“[Teaching has] really lifted my spirits. I just really love working
with students and teaching is such a great part of my life,” Alley
Alley worked with his students individually as their friend, not
just one of many faces passing through his classrooms every day.
“He made me feel welcome at this university when I didn’t know
anybody. He cared about all of his students to the degree that when it
was thanksgiving, he offered to take people to his home if they
couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving,” sophomore Sara McCord said. “He was
sincere about it. He really wanted you there if you couldn’t go home.”
Alley not only made students feel welcome in his classroom, but also had an open-door policy about his office.
“Dr. Alley was my advisor and my friend. With his direction, I was
able to find where I wanted to go in life, both spiritually and
academically,” junior Philana Phillips said. “His office was an open
door. Sometimes I would just go in there to talk to him, rather than
ask him anything specific. It made my day just to be able to spend a
few minutes with him.”
Alley took care of all his students individually. He made an effort to make sure every student understood what he was teaching.
“I had a computer graphics class with Tony Alley. It was a good
class, especially for me since I was struggling with it. He helped me
out a lot and gave me guidance,” McCord said. “He was also my advisor,
and so he took a lot of time with me outside of class to talk with me
about the things I was having a hard time with in school, and some of
it didn’t have anything to do with his class. He still wanted to help
me, even if it didn’t have anything to do with his class or his
department. That was my favorite class of the semester, and it was
because he was teaching it.”
Many other students enjoyed his classes from the first day.
“Dr. Alley’s classes were the highlight of my day. I only had him as
a professor once; that was back in 2005, before any news of the cancer.
I knew from the first day of class that he was someone that I could
trust and look up to, and that if I ever had a problem, or needed a
pick-me-up, he would be there,” Phillips said. “You might say I got
‘good vibes’ from him, and I was right. In class, he wouldn’t be
looking over your shoulder every second to make sure you were doing
everything perfectly. Instead, he seemed to be behind right me just in
time to help me with a problem I was having.”
Alley also helped Phillips make connections outside of Oklahoma Christian University that will help her in her future career.
“He got me involved in SIGGRAPH, an organization for people in
computer graphics and interactive technology, and I was able to attend
the annual conference with him and two other students. SIGGRAPH opened
many doors for me that I never thought possible, such as career
opportunities, learning experiences, and networking,” Phillips said.
“Without Dr. Alley, I doubt I would have ever even known about
SIGGRAPH, let alone been able to go the conferences. I owe so much to
Despite the difficult situation Alley was in for the last year of
his life, he never let his situation affect how he interacted with his
“He never stopped asking what he could do for me, or any of the
other of his students. He didn’t like seeing us sad; he wanted us to
realize that he had lived a full life and that he was getting to go
home,” Phillips said.
Alley’s whole life focused on his passion for teaching and helping other people.
“He had a passion for computer animation and technology, and it
showed,” Phillips said. “He meshed that passion with his love for other
people, especially his students, and he created a legacy that will last
forever in the hearts of those who knew him.”
Photo by Isaac McDaniel