August 16, 2023

Thomas Cullyford Watling, an esteemed educator and beloved member of the community, passed away peacefully at his home in Turlock after battling Merkel-cell carcinoma. 

 He grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, and graduated from high school in 1943. After serving as a B-29 flight engineer in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he pursued higher education at Drury College, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1949. 

In August 1948, he married Sara Nancy Hasler. He embarked on his career as an educator in 1949, teaching high school English in Lebanon, Missouri, and later junior high English and social studies in nearby Springfield. His dedication to education led him to complete a master’s degree in education at Drury College in 1955.  

After completing his doctorate in speech/communication at the University of Denver in 1967, Watling accepted a position as associate dean of students at what was then Stanislaus State College.  

During his 21-year tenure at Stanislaus State, he played a pivotal role in shaping student activities, housing and career planning programs. Additionally, he served as a faculty member in the School of Business, where he mentored students, taught writing classes for MBA candidates and organized the “business week” program to support high school juniors interested in pursuing a business education. He retired in 1988. 

His dedication to student development extended beyond the campus, and he was actively involved in various educational organizations and community initiatives.  

Watling held memberships in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and the Western College Placement Association (WCPA). He served as president of the Stanislaus County Personnel Management Council, the Rotary Club of Turlock and the California Educational Placement Association (CEPA). 

Outside of his professional and community commitments, he had a passion for classical orchestral and choral music, the study of human communication, camping and restoring old cars.  

He is survived by his three children: Susanna, Thomas Jr. and Arthur John, as well as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nancy, with whom he shared 63 years.