Upon hearing the news that David Tuttle has decided to retire from his role as vice president of Student Life and Dean of Students, there is likely one question that comes to mind. Why now? “I’m actually excited for Trinity,” he explains. “People switch jobs all the time, so the fact that I’ve been at one place for over 30 years, maybe the question shouldn’t be why I’m leaving, but instead, why did I stay so long?” he laughs. “I think the time is right for me and the University.”
Tuttle’s time at Trinity began in 1987 in an entry-level position with Residential Life. The numerous roles he occupied as he progressed in his journey have a notable impact on how he relates with colleagues in his role as Dean. "As someone who has held roles from entry-level to Dean of Students and everything in between, I’ve always felt an appreciation for where people are,” he recalls. The knowledge gained over the years gives Tuttle valuable insight when it comes to mentoring and connecting with colleagues. “In Student Life, we deal with gravity, levity, and absurdity. That’s a pretty dynamic work environment that I will definitely miss.”
Tuttle’s 30 plus years at Trinity provide countless moments to consider when reminiscing. During my time as a student, I’m not sure I recall an interaction with him where I wasn’t laughing. His sense of humor and quick comedic timing are in a league of their own. Truthfully, his poker face is so good when telling a joke, it took me almost all of my first year to tell the jokes from the truth. This unique skill is one of his many talents, in my opinion. However, when Tuttle reflects on the parts of his journey that he is most proud of, laughter is not coupled with his answer. “The grief group,” he starts, fondly, “that I’ve been running for ten years.” Having lost his mother as a college student, Tuttle found purpose in “extending an empathetic hand to grieving students during difficult times. I’m proud of that group because I’ve been able to see the pain, the resilience, the support from fellow students, and all of these aspects of students’ lives.”
Through good times and bad, one activity that has been a constant for Tuttle is running. For this reason, it is no surprise that he mentioned his Half-Marathon Challenge as another proud collection of memories. This is an annual event that began in 2008 upon the arrival of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half-Marathon to San Antonio. “I used to be a solitary runner but I got used to running with people, which I really enjoy,” he says. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni—myself included—have run alongside Tuttle in this highly anticipated event. “It was a fun way to combine my interest in running with helping students check something off of their bucket list. I’ve had lots of conversations while logging a lot of miles with people.” Out of the 12 marathons he completed in with Trinity, he joyfully recalls “seeing people who have never run a mile complete a half-marathon, to very fast runners, and everyone in between.” This year, the pandemic prevented a marathon during Tuttle’s last year at Trinity, which he thoroughly missed. I playfully inquired if “Running with the Dean” will transition to “Running with David,” to which he chuckled and implied we will have to wait and see.
The spirited interactions with students, such as the half-marathon, along with Tuttle’s structured involvement, specifically his role on Conduct Board, Advising Student Government, and Leading Residential Life, provided a seemingly perfect balance through the years.
When it comes to the moments Tuttle will miss most, though, he emphatically says, “graduation.” He goes on to reflect, “I’ve sat through so many, and the people I see graduate are some of the students who have overcome tremendous obstacles. They have fought and clawed through tragedy. I’m proud to see them graduate.” Tuttle especially enjoys the reception on the Esplanade after graduation. “Seeing families and getting to say an official goodbye to people when they leave. It’s a great capstone to their experiences.”
Family is important to Tuttle, and it’s necessary to note that Trinity’s campus is essentially the only home his children remember. “We brought all of our kids (Nathan, Aaron, Joelle, and Kellyn) home to campus, and we’ve had some of the best babysitters ever with Trinity students. Donna and I got engaged in the Heidi apartment, which is also where Nathan and his wife, Savannah, lived while he was working here.” Tuttle was also happy that campus games and events could entertain his kids from a young age. “It’s always been very convenient,” he recalls. “All of my kids have been to events like Trinity Idol, talent shows, theater productions, and countless speakers.”
As he looks ahead, though, he is eager to move into his new home that is currently being built. “I’m worried because when I call the University to put in a work order, I don’t know that they’ll come anymore,” he jokingly says with a smile. Tuttle beams while he imagines this new chapter. “I will make Donna coffee in the morning and cook for her. She does not believe me, and part of me doesn’t believe it either,” he teases. In addition to being the new home chef, the fact that he will have the time to help send Kellyn off to college and recharge is what excites Tuttle most. “Ever since I was little, I’ve been at school or at work. When 60 Minutes comes on, that tick of the clock has always triggered me that the weekend is over. I might now watch 60 Minutes and not be triggered. It’ll be nice for that clock to tick down and not have something to do,” he smiles.
When reflecting on areas of focus for the incoming Dean of Students, Tuttle notes the importance of respecting students as individuals and fully immersing into the culture. “This isn’t the kind of place where you work and go home. You have to be involved in many aspects of it. The students are at the core of what I’ve done. There’s no question how gratifying that has been. My relationship with parents and families over the years is something I’ve enjoyed tremendously. I’ve worked with great people who have become great friends.” Tuttle is insistent in his hope that Trinity’s magic is not overlooked or swept aside moving forward. “I want people to understand what a special place this is and to love it as much as I’ve loved it. I’ve learned a lot of this from Dr. Coleen Grissom. When you think about Trinity, it’s about relationships. It’s a special place where people are treated with respect, and we strive for excellence. I want people to appreciate that about Trinity.”
Looking back on David Tuttle’s journey, it seems understandably clear why he stayed for more than 30 years. He stayed to serve with his colleagues. He stayed so that laughter could be a constant on campus. He stayed to provide a listening ear to grieving students. He stayed to enjoy the community he found through running. He stayed because campus became home. He stayed because, as he confidently stated, he appreciates Trinity.
After the years of service that David Tuttle selflessly provided, I think it’s safe to say Trinity appreciates him, too, and will miss him dearly.