Jane Tuttle graduated from Ball State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s in Social Studies Education and minors in Business Administration and Political Science. In this interview, she shares the highlights from her Ball State experience and how the University launched her passion for education into a successful career.
What experiences or critical lessons from your time at Ball State proved helpful in getting where you are now?
I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without my experience with the residence halls and the student government. The campus chess charity was influential to me; we all dressed up for it. I dressed up as the Tin Man, and the students sang the titular song by America for me, which is an experience I will never forget. Before ATMs, there was the Thelma Miller Fund that I volunteered with. It allowed students who needed quick loans to have some cash, usually small amounts like five dollars. When the fund started to dry up as the semester went on, we placed a sign by the door that said “Thelma is dying over here folks,” to signal our lendees to pay their debts.
What advice do you have for students at Ball State who may wish to follow in your footsteps?
Take advantage of everything Ball State has to offer. It has stellar academics and extra-curricular activities and a good student affairs department. Oh, and get to know your faculty.
If you could relive one day from your Ball State experience, what would it be?
Commencement was always fun. It was smaller when I was in school. One year, one of my kids answered the phone, and it was a Ball State basketball coach asking if I could record a game for him in Lawrence, Kansas. I said, “That feels traitorous but ok.” I haven’t been back to the campus since 1979, and I miss it.
Can you remember a class or an experience that changed your life?
I loved the political science classes. I can’t remember the exact name of the course, but it was on the political electorate and how we voters behave in very irrational ways. It was a fascinating class and introduced me to survey research, a combination of psychology, political science, and survey methods. I did not enjoy the economic history of the United States. I love listening to passionate people, and I always say if a mason was talking about laying bricks and they were into it, they would make it fascinating.
What instructor made the most significant impact on you, and why?
I can’t remember his last name, but it was Mike in Political Science; he had just a dry-wit and was smart as a whip and was just really an encouraging person. He taught in the ’70s.
How did Ball State contribute to your success in life?
It introduced me to the profession I’m in—higher education and student services—gave me a few friends for life, and helped with my critical thinking skills, I want to believe. Back in the ’70s, the University wasn’t as big as it is now. I looked around before I found it, was told I would get a world-class education there, and so that’s where I went.
Why have you continued to maintain a relationship with your alma mater?
Because I believe that higher education can change the trajectory of a family for generations. I didn’t need financial help in school, but I know some students need it. Some departments could use an extra hundred dollars here or there, and money makes a difference. Even smaller donations add up. People should never discount the power of higher education.
What are your passions outside of work?
I have two beautiful little granddaughters in Texas that I don’t get to see enough. I’m getting ready to retire, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my husband. I used to volunteer a lot with La Leche League and have been active with them for more than 34 years. I was on the national board for a while.
I met a lot of mothers, and through my job at the University of Kansas, I have met a lot of parents. I have had at least half a dozen people talk about their babies then, and now their babies are coming to the university where I work. I have been told that I have saved lives, and I had a remarkable career at KU. I will miss it dearly, but I am also looking forward to getting some sleep. I can’t say enough about Ball State, except I don’t get the “Chirp, chirp!” business. We did not chirp when I was in college. I flew into Indy one time, and I saw the banner, and it was terrific. Ball State has some of the best student retentions in the country, and it’s for a good reason. I’m proud of my time there.
“Spotlight On:” is a story series produced by the Ball State University Foundation in which we discuss current events, University news, and the importance of philanthropy. To read past stories, click here.