photo by Stephen Sumrall-Orsak
For David Tuttle, vice president of Student Life and Dean of Students, his time at Trinity has always felt like much more than just a job.
“This is the most meaningful relationship I have had in my life besides my family. I have learned a lot, grown a lot, and feel like I will always define myself by my time here,” wrote Tuttle in an email interview. “I am always proud when I tell people where I work and what I do for my job. I have raised my family here since we have always lived on campus. People have asked me if it is hard to live where I work, and I have never felt that way. It is who I am.”
Trinity students, faculty, and staff received an email from Danny Anderson, university president, announcing Tuttle’s retirement on the morning of Sept. 29. Although announced this week, Tuttle will continue working for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year.
“I wanted this to be announced now so the university could openly plan and conduct an appropriate search for my successor. So, it is still fresh and sinking in,” Tuttle wrote. “I have lots of feelings, certainly some sadness — I will miss this place, and [feel] some excited anticipation for the future.”
Tuttle’s retirement comes after 32 years with Trinity, where he started off working as Area Coordinator for Residential Life in 1987. Since then, he has held numerous positions within the offices of Residential Life and Student Life, including director of Residential Life, Senior Student Affairs Officer and, on numerous occasions, Interim Vice President. He has held his current position as Dean of Students since 1999.
“I love Trinity University and want everyone connected to it to feel the same way. I feel like it represents learning, caring, and excellence, and that even if people see different paths forward, everyone here is pulling in the same direction. I will miss being part of the discussions as to how things unfold here, but am so excited to see this place continue to reach even greater heights.”
Having been a community member deeply involved across campus over the past three decades, Tuttle’s absence will be felt by many.
“Obviously, this is a bittersweet moment for our division. Trust me, on the ‘bitter’ side of bittersweet; we will miss having him as our advisor and his ability to be a futuristic/strategizing thought partner. He does a great deal of work with other parts of Trinity, and those colleagues are sure to feel a gap with his retirement,” wrote Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, in an email interview. “Finally, his unique sense of humor means that meetings with him are never boring! On the ‘sweet’ side, we are super happy for him that he is choosing to retire after a long and fruitful career at this special place.”
One of Tuttle’s roles on campus in recent years has been serving as an adviser to the Student Government Association (SGA) alongside Jamie Thompson, co-adviser, Assistant Dean of Students, and director of Student Involvement.
“The news of Dean Tuttle’s retirement this coming May was shocking news to read, but I think moving on is an important and earned step in life after so many years of service to students,” wrote Jaelen Harris, SGA president and senior political science major, in an email interview. “On behalf of SGA, I would like to thank Dean Tuttle for the decades worth of guidance and advice that he has given SGA in his time with our organization, and we wish him the very best moving forward.”
Once retired, Tuttle plans to spend time with his family and find a new place to call home, having lived and raised his kids on-campus throughout his career at Trinity.
“I am almost 61, and we have never owned a home. So that is the first step. The second step is to try to pamper my wife, Donna, if she will let me. She is my rock and works so hard, and I owe her so much. She thinks the pampering will last two weeks, but she will eat well for those two weeks! I want to spend time with my grown kids in new and different ways, where I can be more focused on them,” Tuttle wrote. “So I will take some time, and then look at ways that I can find new adventures and opportunities. … I kind of like not knowing. You spend your whole life going to school and working. So not having to do anything Monday mornings will feel awesome—for a while.”
The early announcement of Tuttle’s plan to retire provides the university with ample time to begin the search and hiring process for his successor. In his email, Anderson noted that the qualities the hiring committee will be searching for would not stray from those held by Tuttle.
“As I have noted multiple times in recent weeks, the deep partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Life shapes the holistic student experience at Trinity,” wrote Anderson. “The next Dean of Students will continue this commitment to fostering the deep collaboration that supports Trinity students in the classroom and beyond.”
“In ways that few can fully understand or witness, Dean Tuttle deals with difficult and complex problems in an entirely student-centered way. He juggles this difficult work—dealing with all forms of student conduct, being on call 24/7, engaging in constant communication with parents and families (on both the macro- and micro-level)—and then somehow finds time to push us to be better (e.g., his tireless work on the Retention and Graduation Task Force). Dean Tuttle has done this work at Trinity for 32 years, and that is a long career in our field,” Tynes wrote.