John Tinker, Program in Writing and Rhetoric lecturer, dead at 52

Tinker helped establish the Hume Writing Center and served as its assistant director between 2004 and 2007.

John Tinker, a lecturer in Stanford's Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) who focused on early gay culture and the relation between style and subculture, has died after a struggle with colon cancer. He was 52.

Tinker, who died on Nov. 4 at his home in San Francisco, was a co-founder of the Hume Writing Center and served as its assistant director between 2004 and 2007. He also taught classes in conjunction with the Cantor Arts Center.

"A special kind of pathos emerges when somebody as involved with writing as John was dies," Nick Jenkins, the faculty director of PWR, wrote in a piece posted on the program's website. "Moments like these remind us that, although we spend our lives in the midst of language, no words can ever fill the hole an individual leaves when they pass away."

Tinker joined the faculty of Stanford's writing program in 1996 after receiving a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California-Berkeley and his doctorate in English from Stanford.

His work included analysis of style in 18th-century political and literary texts and their effects on emerging homosexual subcultures in England. He taught classes in collaboration with the Cantor Arts Center and wrote about rhetorical aspects of museum displays. His other scholarly interests and publications included work on writing center administration, especially on collaborations between university and secondary school writing centers.

During his career, Tinker had served as president of the Northern California Writing Centers Association and was a member of the executive board of the International Writing Centers Association.

Diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2007, Tinker used his love of writing to cope with his failing health and explain his situation to others through blog postings.

"For me, the act of writing takes me further than the momentary insight, the startling newness of a particular image or idea," he wrote on Aug. 3. "Writing sustains that insight into a narrative that becomes memory, becomes my record of experiences, my emotional resource for getting back to that place of love and caring and nurturing pleasure at the moments when anxiety or the stunning difficulty of the disease threatens to become more than I can bear."

Tinker is survived by his partner, Adrian Card; his sister, Cathy Tinker, and her husband Paul Musser of Portland, Ore.; and his mother, Barbara Tinker, also of Portland.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.