Area Historian and HSU Alumnus Don Tuttle Remembered

Don and Andrea Tuttle standing by a marsh

June 26, 2020—The life-long impact of one HSU alumnus continues through the support of HSU students. HSU alumnus Don Tuttle (‘71, Natural Resources), passed away on May 15, 2020 at age 81.

In 2018, he and his wife, Andrea, gave a gift to create two funds to support HSU students studying environmental policy or science related to climate change: the Tuttle Climate Conference Fund and the Tuttle Climate Graduate Fund. The conference fund supports attendance at international conferences focused on climate mitigation and adaptation. The graduate fund awards students up to $30,000 over the course of two years, in support of their graduate work on climate policy or science, with an emphasis on the land sector.

Their generosity reflects Don’s passion for the local community, the natural beauty of the North Coast, and a sustainable future.

A resident of Arcata and an avid Humboldt County historian, Don moved to Humboldt County in the late 1960’s. Andrea Tuttle, Don’s wife of 50 years, says that from the start, he was committed to building a life in the area.

“He loved living here. The natural surroundings, the beauty of the area, the pace of life, the social and political environment that we enjoy here—it was all important to him,” says Andrea, who taught as an HSU Lecturer in Natural Resources in the1970’s and later served as the first woman Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Both Don and Andrea had a strong commitment to countering the impacts of global climate change.

When Don came to Humboldt, he had already received a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Purdue University and a master’s degree in Coastal Engineering from UC Berkeley, but was looking for more. Don had searched to find the best university to study natural sciences, and he found it at HSU.

“Don’s experience shows how an HSU education can be the key for taking what you’ve learned at Humboldt and moving into the world,” Andrea says.

His connection to faculty who taught the core disciplines of biology, botany, zoology, ecosystem processes, forestry, and research techniques had a lasting impact.

“At the time, such professors as Ray Dasmann, Rudi Becking, Ray Barratt, Bill Vinyard, CJ Ralph, Terry Roelofs, and many others were teaching cutting edge ideas on resource management that today are now established policy,” says Andrea.

After graduating from HSU and marrying Andrea, Don worked for the county Department of Public Works. He rose through the ranks to become the environmental services manager and deputy director. Knowing that decisions on land development required solid information on the natural hazards and history of a site, Don traveled the country, scouring archives of federal and state agencies, universities, and elsewhere, collecting documents on Humboldt County. Don developed the Humboldt County Environmental Database, a collection of historic maps, reports and aerial photographs that continue to be used today. Andrea is currently working with the Humboldt Area Foundation to create an internship for students to undertake the process of transcribing Don’s work to a searchable format to ensure that it lives on as a resource for future historians.

“Don developed these interests at Humboldt State. He was a recipient of the great faculty, the focus on resources, and the HSU community as a center of excellence. His impact on the community shows how Humboldt can make a difference in the community and why investing in students is so important,” Andrea says.

Don and Andrea have made sure to invest in HSU students studying climate policy and science through the two funds.

One student, Carisse Geronimo (‘20, Environmental Systems), who benefited from the graduate funding, credits the support as being key in her decision to attend HSU for graduate school immediately. Her goal now is to work in renewable energy research, and to get more involved with local energy planning and policy.

“Don and Andrea were great inspirations and mentors to me. I had valuable conversations with them about their careers and their work in the environmental sciences. Their stories motivated me in my studies over the past couple years,” she says.

Lindsey Gordon (‘20, Natural Resources), also shared how the Tuttles’ support greatly impacted her studies at HSU. Awarded $2,500 through the Tuttle Climate Conference Fund, she presented her graduate research at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Malaysia last year. The experience opened up Lindsey up to a new understanding of where her career could go, while expanding the possibilities for career advancement through her new connection to a diverse world-wide scientific community.

“The conference allowed me to meet biologists from all over the world, experience a new culture, and learn about innovative research and conservation techniques to preserve and protect species. It was the highlight of my graduate career and the experience will stay with me my entire life,” Lindsey says.

Like Carisse, after Lindsey had received the award, she had the opportunity to meet the Tuttles in person. Lindsey recalls the experience of having dinner with the couple.

“I was overwhelmed with inspiration for what my professional career could be by listening to their individual career journeys and their journey together as a couple. Both Don and Andrea saw each of us as capable young professionals that could pursue and succeed at any goals we set,” she says.

Now that Lindsey has graduated, her long-term goal is to work with an organization that fosters research, policy, and communication, believing that strengthening the connection between those three areas is key to making lasting global change. She credits the Tuttles for not only providing the financial support necessary for attending the life-changing conference in Malaysia, but also with opening her up to seeing different possibilities for her career.

“Both Don and Andrea were immensely positive influencers in my graduate career and I can not thank them enough for their scholarship and professional support,” says Lindsey.

Carisse agrees.

“I am extremely grateful for having met the Tuttles. I have great respect and admiration for Don and Andrea because of the work they've accomplished in their lifetimes and also the genuine kindness that they have shown me. Don will be missed by many, and his impact will continue to influence people for generations,” she says.

To support HSU students who work on climate and energy, gifts can be made to the Tuttle Climate Conference Fund and the Tuttle Climate Graduate Fund online. To learn more about how you can support HSU students, please contact giving@humboldt.edu or 707-826-5200.