“It’s very forward thinking to have ‘creative studies’ in your name and to have such a range of art and design offerings. So there’s not only Transportation Design, for example, but also Crafts and Fine Arts,” said Tuski, explaining why he was inspired to join CCS. “It really is one of the few art and design colleges to embrace such a range. It’s not easily done, and CCS does it in a very robust way. That’s powerful in a city that, historically, is all about art, design and crafts.
“Creativity is an important part of the future of higher education, as well as society,” he continued. “The world needs more artists and designers, because they often are the first people to point out problems and contradictions. They come up with something new, authentic or original. There’s a power to creativity historically — it’s not just ‘art for art’s sake,’ which is still important, but ‘art for society’s sake.’”
The search for president was conducted by Paul H.L. Chou, co-managing director, Global Education Practice, at Korn Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm. Chaired by Trustee William U. Parfet, the CCS Search Committee included trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni.
“I was honored to serve as chair of the presidential search. We made a unanimous recommendation to the Board of Trustees that Don Tuski be the College’s next president,” said Parfet. “He has all the qualifications we were looking for. He’s the right person to lead the next phase of CCS’s development as a world-class college of art and design.”
Added incoming Board of Trustees Chair James M. Nicholson, “Don’s demonstrated experience, enthusiasm and ingenuity came shining through the search process. I'm confident he will lead us to success in this rapidly evolving world. Our shared goal is to grow the College for Creative Studies’ reputation and role as developer of the best global practitioners of art and design.”
At Maine College of Art (MECA) in Portland, Maine, Tuski led a sustained period of development as president from 2010 to 2016, increasing enrollment by 22 percent and growing revenue by 39 percent. During his tenure, philanthropic gifts more than doubled, and Tuski secured the college’s largest individual gift at the time: $3,000,000 from the Crewe Foundation to launch what is now the Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music (named for the acclaimed American writer/producer) — a unique program emphasizing the intersection of visual art and contemporary music.
The gift endowed a professorship as well as student scholarships, and enabled MECA to institute a music minor option for students and build a state-of-the-art sound studio, music practice rooms and classrooms.
In 2013, Tuski was named one of Maine magazine’s “50 Mainers to Admire and Inspire.” He hired the first director of MECA’s Artists at Work Center, which provides ongoing professional development support to students and alumni. The college also instituted a major in textiles and fashion design, minors in writing and public engagement and acquired the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Prior to joining MECA, Tuski spent 25 years in various roles at Olivet College, a private liberal arts college in Olivet, Michigan (and Tuski’s alma mater), where he served for nine years as president (2001–2010). Enrollment increased by more than 50 percent, fundraising totaled $22,000,000 and, from 2006–2009, the college raised a record-breaking $16,000,000 for its capital campaign, Embracing Opportunity and Responsibility since 1844: The Campaign for Olivet College. He also secured $3,500,000 for the completion of a new LEED-certified art building and led numerous upgrades and enhancements to campus facilities, housing and classrooms.
Tuski’s administrative, operational and fundraising accomplishments are inextricable, however, from his drive — wherever he serves — to improve quality of life for students, faculty and staff; to create and sustain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus; and to deepen each institution’s relationship to the surrounding community.
The graduation rate at Pacific Northwest College of Art, for example, improved by eight percentage points last year, due in large part to increased engagement with seniors, a designated scholarship to help students finish their degrees and the Persist and Thrive Committee, an initiative involving all areas of PNCA to help improve student retention and graduation rates. At MECA, Tuski created an “open door” policy for the President’s Office and a summer working group of trustees, faculty and staff to address student debt.
Tuski has also established initiatives aimed specifically at addressing issues of inclusion and inequality, including Olivet College’s first Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and the Equity and Social Justice Action Committee at PNCA.
“That’s why I say that anthropology is really helpful to me as a college administrator. Earning a master’s and a PhD in anthropology, I’m hardwired for understanding multiple perspectives,” Tuski explained. “How does an artist come up with something new, authentic or original, while having to see multiple perspectives and to be very thoughtful? I’ve always been interested in that — understanding difference — even when you sometimes disagree with other people. But finding and building common ground is so important.”
Finding common ground is precisely what animates an institution’s relationships with community partners, an aspect of CCS that Tuski admires.
“It’s another thing that drew me to CCS, the school’s integration with the community,” Tuski said. “That is so important because a lot of higher education tends to be a bit removed from communities. They’re doing more, in general, but I think CCS does it much better, and I’m looking forward to picking up where Rick Rogers left off, to maintain and increase community engagement.”
Donald L. Tuski holds a BA in biology from Olivet College and MA and doctoral degrees in anthropology from Michigan State University. At every institution he has served, he teaches at least one course a year, which not only keeps him connected to students but also gives him a ground-level view of faculty concerns. “I teach a class in anthropology at PNCA, and I’ve always taught one class a year — at Maine College of Art and Olivet College, too,” he added. “It really is fantastic. Artists and designers are tremendously curious and some of the most intellectually driven people I know.”
Later, Tuski continued. “At PNCA, and at Maine College of Art, it’s one of the things I emphasized — to partner and collaborate with art teachers, because they get it. Art teachers are the biggest influencers of whether a student goes to art or design school. I think that it’s time for art and design schools, that society needs more of what they are doing. It’s just a really great time.”