By Heather King, Staff Writer
Joe Tutlis, a man of many hats here at UMF and elsewhere, will be retiring at the end of this spring semester after 16 years of teaching at UMF, and 43 years as an educator.
Upon arrival, Joe was sitting at his desk, typing away at his computer. He seemed wide-awake, which is not uncommon for a teacher. Joe was very inviting, and excited to talk about his time here at UMF. He sat relaxed in his chair, leaning back with his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap. Joe spent 27 years in Auburn as a teacher and a principal, and worked in the central office supporting new teachers. At UMF, he is the field supervisor, he was a first year advisor for three years, and he has been the elementary education coordinator for the last two years.
He has decided to retire because he recently turned 65 years old. “My wife and I have many plans, many things we want to do while we are physically able,” said Joe. His wife, Doris Tutlis, the coordinator of conferences and events at UMF, will also be retiring with him.
Joe spoke highly of his wife. “Doris taught for 27 years as well. [She] has been really busy for the last 16 years here,” said Joe. “One of the things about the 75-mile round trip [to and from UMF] is that we drive together. We have to talk, to plan. We are outside people, kayaking, skiing, camping, and walking. In retirement, the two of us will have a lot of common interests.”
The Tutlis’ love for the outdoors is reflected in all of the pictures in Joe’s office. Along with the pictures, hanging on Joe’s wall is a trail map of Sugarloaf Ski Mountain, of which Joe is very fond, and spends most of his days there. That is, when he is not at UMF, of course.
Cathy Wimett, associate professor of literacy education, long time friend, and long time colleague of Joe, liked working with him because of, “the fact that we both like to be organized. He is 100 percent reliable,” said Wimett. His bookshelf is very organized, full of boxes and books piled neatly. On his bulletin board, he has important calendars, reminders, and papers tacked in a careful manner. He even has a list of his advisees, with their pictures, and notes about them, hanging up on his wall. His file cabinet doesn’t even have a paper out of place.
Katie Emmons, a senior elementary education major and varsity soccer player, said, “One thing that Joe does extremely well is getting to know his students and their interests outside of school. We would have talks about my soccer season and what is going on. This made me feel like he truly wanted to see me be successful in all aspects.” Wimett also talked about Joe as a great listener and problem-solver, and she often found herself in his office to speak about her concerns. “[Joe] definitely had a positive impact on me,” said Emmons. “He was the first teacher I had who taught me all the aspects of teaching. I feel like he was the beginning to my development as a teacher.”
Many students around campus are bracing for his departure. “Its definitely going to be different not having him on campus all the time,” said Emmons. “He became the face of elementary education, as all of us education students knew who he was. We all have immense respect for him.”
Just as the education students have respect for Joe, he has enormous respect for his students. He talked about what he will miss most about UMF, and said, “Oh the students! The students, and working with fellow faculty. I love my students and I love the faculty that I work with. It’s a good group of people, and a good group of students.”
Joe is an extremely valued member of the UMF community, and within that, the education community. “I’ll remember every day working with Joe, and I will miss working with Joe every day. He will leave a big hole when he retires,” said Wimett, as tears appeared in her eyes. “He has been my go-to guy. He is such a steady Joe. No hidden agendas, the kind of person I like to work with,” said Wimett, as she reached for another tissue to wipe her eyes.
Joe Tutlis, and his wife Doris will be greatly missed throughout the UMF campus, but they have reassured everyone that they will be back to visit.