William K.S. Tobin, a former dean of the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic School and a Middle East expert, died of heart failure Saturday at his Ellicott City home. He was 79.
The son of Harold James Tobin, a Dartmouth College professor, and Margaret Gilfillan, a homemaker, William Kilborne Stewart Tobin was born in Hanover, N.H., and raised in Manhattan, where he graduated in 1955 from the Collegiate School.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in ancient history in 1960 from Yale University and, after enlisting in the Army, attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where he became proficient in Turkish.
After being discharged in 1965, Mr. Tobin joined the National Security Agency, and was posted to the Middle East. In 1972, he left the NSA and studied for a master’s degree at Princeton University, and spent a year on a Fulbright Fellowship doing research in the archives of the Ottoman Empire that were housed in Istanbul.
He returned to the NSA in 1975 and headed an operation in the Middle East. In 1986, he was promoted to the Senior Cryptologic Executive Service and was then named dean of the NSA’s National Cryptologic School’s language and area studies department.
Even though Mr. Tobin retired in 1996, he continued to contribute to the daily National Intelligence Estimates in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In 1980, he was presented the Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
After retiring, he volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for children. He also consulted for several language software companies and the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mr. Tobin’s hobbies were world culture, history and diplomacy.
Services are private.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Phoebe Snavely, whom he met at the NSA; a son, Harold James Tobin of Madison, Wis.; a daughter, Rachel Tobin Bates of Anchorage, Alaska; and two grandchildren.