By Gigi Hume and Galilea Oregon
Yesterday afternoon felt just like a normal day, all up until whispers in the hallways and muffled tears spoke for themselves—Ian Williamson, former Utt Middle School eighth grade Physical Science, STEM teacher, Cross Country coach, and most recently Tustin High School Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher passed away after a ⁓15 year battle with skin cancer this Monday morning surrounded by his wife, two year old son, and close family. He was only 43 years old.
Mr. Williamson was known to greet his students every day with a warm smile and handshake. In doing so, he was rightfully deemed a favorite among Utt Middle School alumni. Many former Utt students and current Tustin High students, including ourselves, have taken the news of his passing especially hard. In his honor, we have compiled tales of the man who taught us to cultivate our passions and chase after them no matter what.
“It seems so long ago now, but when I first met Mr. Williamson I was just a little 7th grader in the throes of an especially cringe-worthy puberty, wearily joining the Science Olympiad team. Initially, I only did it because my sister did it and I wanted to follow in her scientific steps, and really never considered science as something I wanted to actively pursue—but that all changed after I met Mr. Williamson. I found a love for my two topics—Genetics and Anatomy—under his knowing guidance. It seriously felt he knew everything there was to know about genetic disorders and the parts of the brain. After all the fun times after school perfecting our crafts, it came time for the big competition. That time, I got 6th place—one spot off from a medal—and all I could do was cry and cry, feeling defeated over how all that work was in vain. Just when I thought all my studying and squeezing of information about chromosomes onto an 8” x 11” paper seemed pointless, Mr. Williamson came over, gave me a hug, and in between my sobs calmly told me, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ That was the Mr. Williamson we all knew and loved. He taught us strength and for that I #ThankYouMrWilliamson.” – Gigi Hume, former Physical Science and Science Olympiad student
“Two words I think of when I think of Mr. Williamson? Chuck. Norris. Mr. Williamson had a contagious smile. A smile always so vibrant and warm. He never failed to make his students feel welcome in his classroom. I remember sitting in the second row at the end of the table, listening to him as he enthusiastically taught us. I will never forget how excited he got—how his eyes lit up, and his smile covered his whole face. Mr. Williamson was one positive soul. A soul that will never be forgotten.”- Anonymous
“I don’t know where to start. Being in Mr. Williamson’s science class made me fall in love with space and stars so much, that I doodled them literally everywhere. That’s when I picked up writing about the infinite and sending everyone into an existential crisis. There was this one time when we worked on a coding program in STEM that allowed us to make simple animated cartoons, and I created these weird, crudely drawn figures that spun around the screen. It was nothing compared to anything everyone else made during those two weeks, but he found them quirky and commended me for my work. I’ll never forget that. But my favorite part of is class was all the times he let me play Vampire Weekend in the STEM lab and dance around. I think that really impacted me and spoke volumes about his character—the way he took interest in every single one of his students and made sure they knew he was proud of them. His attitude towards life was so admirable—he was always smiling. The way he taught, with so much passion and excitement—I want to be that passionate about life. He will be greatly missed.” – Galilea Oregon, former Physical Science and STEM student
“I will always remember how Mr. Williamson would go 100% every day in class, and that was reflected in how much he impacted us, and not even just through the way he taught science, but the way he changed his students’ lives. He made me excited to learn and because of that, I have ambition and an unquenchable curiosity.”- Joni Myers, former Physical Science and STEM student
“Thank you Mr. Williamson for the great memories in Science Olympiad. He always pushed me to do my best in my events and offered extra help wherever he could. I didn’t have his class for 8th grade science, so the few times I passed him in the halls, he would greet me with a big smile. He will be dearly missed.”- Anonymous
“My favorite memories of Mr. Williamson were those during Science Olympiad. Whenever we were at competitions, he never gave up on us, even when it seemed impossible to win. Even we we failed, he always encouraged us and told us to take our time and figure out a way to improve. He made it all a fun experience.”- Yoselin Carranza, former Science Olympiad student
“A couple of weeks ago, as I was scrolling through a rampage of internet articles, the silhouettes of Jimmy Page and Joni Mitchell caught my eye. The bold red header above read, “Joni Mitchell: the Inspiration Behind ‘Going to California.’” As I recalled the familiar lyrics of my favorite Led Zeppelin song, I abruptly witnessed a wave of nostalgia as I remembered my first encounter with this band; it was eighth grade year in my first period physical science class. Mr. Williamson had decorated his room with vivid posters of memorandum from his youth. Among these vibrant signs of Pink Floyd, Broncos franchise, and Ghandi quotes, there was a colossal tie-dye banner which said ‘Led Zeppelin.’ This was the banner which gazed at me every morning at 7:50 as I scrambled to remember the definition of buoyancy or the distances between the planets in the solar system—I wanted to be prepared for the arbitrary moment in which Mr. Williamson would call my name to answer the questions from our daily journal. Mr. Williamson’s constant affirmations were perpetual implements of confidence in my naive thirteen year old mentality; these affirmations for me—like with many of his other students—were one of the key instigators in my academic success. Before his class, I never contemplated science beyond the mere diagrams of our deranged hand-me-down textbooks. Mr. Williamson’s explanation of the universe through science transcended my preconceived notions of Newton’s laws or the periodic table. His explanations were not solely based off a template of eighth grade learning curriculum—they were the world through his perspective. His tantalizing views on the world in its entirety through science gave me an exuberant exemplification of passion in its essence at the peak of my adolescence. Four years later, at seventeen, I was lucky enough to receive Mr. Williamson as a teacher for Human Anatomy for half of this year. It was daunting, walking to my fifth period class today, knowing that I was walking into the room that epitomized his personality—vibrant, exuberant, yet simultaneously scientific. These walls will forever echo the unfathomable individual he was—disregarding the short amount of time he spent within them. As I listen to ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ or ‘Dazed and Confused’ I devise a melancholy smile, knowing that these albums will forever be the soundtracks of his life.”- Karley Bailey, former Physical Science student and current Anatomy student
Within hours of us announcing our intentions to write this piece, we were flooded with responses singing praises and that in itself speaks volumes about the impact he had on his students. His smile and positivity will not be forgotten and we are grateful for the life lessons we learned from him. He will be remembered by his students, colleagues, family, and friends as a passionate role model we should all strive to be like.
So, for one last time, let us all rejoice and say, “Huzzah!” for the life he led.
Rest easy, Mr. Williamson, you will be missed dearly.
The memorial service will be held on June 10th at 6 p.m. in the THS Sports Pavilion.