“I have always held strong to my belief in artists as public intellectuals and art as central to culture, not an add-on.”
Don Tuski grew up in Hazel Park, Michigan on the north side of Detroit. Both his parents stressed hard work and education. After high school, Don went to Olivet College to study biology and play basketball, and there he became interested in anthropology. Understanding different perspectives is a hallmark of anthropology and something that still serves him well as a college president. Don received his BA in biology from Olivet College in 1985 and his MA (1988) and Ph.D. (1998) in Anthropology from Michigan State University.
Don has been involved in higher education continuously since he was an undergraduate. He has served as everything from soccer coach and residence hall director to professor, dean, and president. While in graduate school, Don focused on education and politics for his MA degree and deindustrialization in the midwest for his Ph.D. As he finished his doctorate, Don grew more and more involved in college administration at Olivet, becoming Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, then Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Acting President, and, finally, President.
Beginning in 2010, Don served as President and Professor of Anthropology at Maine College of Art. During his tenure there, the college increased enrollment by 22% and revenue by 39%. The college more than doubled philanthropic gifts, including support for the college’s first endowed professorship, for student scholarships, and for the launch of new programs in textiles and fashion design as well as a program focusing on the intersection of art and contemporary music. Throughout his time at the college, he formed strong partnerships with other arts organizations and community members and groups.
Similarly, during Don’s tenure as president at Olivet, the enrollment grew from 759 in 2001 to 1,147 in 2009 with an increase in selectivity. At the same time, fundraising was focused on improving better scholarships and facilities. Don was directly involved in raising over $22M, which provided support for a new events center; auditorium; chemistry and physics lab; smart classrooms; football field and track; housing; and an art building.
Don Tuski became President of Pacific Northwest College of Art in July of 2016, following a nationwide search. Although not a practicing artist himself, Don studied painting and he has always been immersed in the arts. His son, Ian, is a classical guitarist, and his daughter, Kenna, is a professional dancer.