Where do we even begin? Professor Matthew Tullis has been an incredible part of The Mirror since 2016. Since our time joining this staff, we have had the pleasure of working, learning and growing as students, people and writers alongside Matt. This would not have been possible without his guidance and true passion for student journalism; and of course, his unconditional love for our little paper.
Collectively, as the current Editorial Board, we have decided to remember Matt in the best way that we know how: writing our most unforgettable and special memories with Professor Tullis, where we got the chance to know him and what we have learned from him. Whether it be in the classroom, The Mirror office or just in passing, Professor Tullis was a beam of light as he always wanted to push us to do better as both individuals and as a team. Matt Tullis has left unfillable shoes, but his lasting legacy will continue to inspire our past and current Mirror staff, as well as every future Mirror writer to come.
I first met Matt through a computer screen during my first ever critique meeting. I was the Assistant News Editor who had never heard of InDesign or AP style prior to the issue we had just put out. Something so special about Professor Tullis was that he didn’t care what you were studying or what experience you had – he believed in student journalism so much that he wanted to help anyone interested in raising student voices do so.
Matt was the type of person and professor who you could feel both his passion and care in all he did for his students and for The Mirror. He inspired us to keep raising student voices as the cornerstone of our paper. When asking Matt for advice on writing a story, he wrote in an email to me that “the best in-depth reporting takes time, the first people you should talk to are the students impacted by this.” Professor Tullis understood that we are the voice of the students, something that is so special about our paper. Each week he provided insight for progress, pushing us to reach for new heights within ourselves as journalists.
One memory I have of Matt is when a few members of The Mirror staff were reporting on students and faculty protesting at Fairfield’s “Community in Action” event. That day is one I will never forget. Tullis reached out to Editor-in-Chief Emerita Molly Lamendola, Madison and I after the event stating, “you all are doing the most important work The Mirror has done in my six years at Fairfield.” He continued, “I was so proud to see you all in Dolan yesterday,” referencing our attendance of a student protest. Tullis’s pride for The Mirror and its staff is something that we always felt and will continue to push us in his absence.
Another memory of Matt I have is when I made my first mistake as Editor-in-Chief. I misspelled a headline and was freaking out – I felt like I had disappointed a lot of people. I emailed Professor Xie and Tullis almost immediately, in which Matt gave me the advice and consolation I needed. A lot of people don’t understand the time pressure we are under each week while still aiming for perfection when it comes to layout and final touches. But Matt did. When things in the office and school combined seemed all too much, Tullis’s reassurances were able to put my mind at ease and instill confidence in me in times when I was second guessing myself.
Finding the right words or processing thoughts in the loss of Matt has been hard. His loss has been felt by so many and I send all my love, thoughts and prayers to his lovely family who I have been able to hear stories of through him. Fairfield has lost one of the good ones. One of the professors who went above and beyond to ensure those around him felt heard, one of the professors who made you feel more like a person than just a student and one of the professors who advocated for his students constantly. We were so lucky to have him.
There are not enough words to properly characterize the impact that Professor Tullis has made on my life. I initially met Professor Tullis when I was a first-year student in his “News Writing I” class. In just a few minutes of class, his passion for what he did was clear. After enjoying his course so much in the Spring of my first year, I signed up for his “Literary Journalism” course the following semester. It was in this course that I rekindled my love for writing. Professor Tullis mentioned on the first day of class that literary journalism was a course near and dear to his heart since he spent a lot of his career writing in this style and then used literary journalism when writing his memoir, “Running With Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer.”
My semester in Literary Journalism was mostly remote, which led me to write one of my observation-based assignments on an interaction between my sister and her friend. When Professor Tullis gave comments to me, we had a lively communication centered around the fact my sister was about the same age as his daughter, Lily. He spoke so highly of his family, and embedded familial anecdotes constantly in his classes. It was clear how deeply he loved them.
I feel lucky to have known Professor Tullis for the four years that I didm and to have been able to work so closely with him on the Mirror. I remember my first critique as The Mirror’s Head News Editor (a critique meeting is when the advisor and Editor-in-Chief comment and analyze the different parts of each section so we can learn and improve for the next week). After only knowing Tullis as a professor, I was not yet ready to make the transition to calling him Matt, though he totally and completely welcomed us calling him by his first name. Even though at times during critique I found myself huffing and puffing each time he commented on the News section: “Add more white space here,” “what if you talked to this person for this article as well,” etc. I could never be mad or annoyed by any of the comments received, and when Maddy and I first took over the News section, trust me, we got a LOT of critiques from him. But, after Critique was all said and done and we started the next issue, I found myself thinking, “Wow. Professor Tullis was right. That story would have been stronger if we reached out to them” and “White space really does look better here.” The time he spent going through the paper each and every week means so much to me, and he helped me become the editor I am today. His eagerness to support our creative ideas, especially throughout the Black Lives Matter articles we wrote last year, meant so much and means even more now. I hate how you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone, and I hate looking back now and feeling like I missed out on so many opportunities to learn from him – like I should have asked more questions, or gone to more office hours. I hope that at the Mirror, even after we all graduate, the next generation of staff still thinks of him and can learn something from the lessons he taught us that have all trickled down throughout the years.
Rest in peace, Matt. I will never forget all you have done for me and the Mirror as a whole.
I will never forget my very first critique meeting with The Mirror. I was simply this freshman kid that somehow caught Ed board’s eye at the time, and there I was sitting on Zoom in Regis Hall for the very first time among a sea of unknown faces, one of them being Professor Tullis himself. I had done some of the layout as the Assistant Sports Editor for the very first time and was unsure of my work since I had never touched InDesign before and had really had no experience writing sports (or anything for that matter) before coming to college. Coming from the perspective of another sports writer, I remember Tullis joking something along the lines of “it’s only up from here” with me. Once I became the sports editor, Tullis guided me through many different obstacles as well as inspired in me a style of article ideas, layout designs and so much more.
Creating a column dedicated to the brand new arena you can see right outside of the Barone Campus Center was just one of the many great ideas Tullis brought to the sports section. He additionally taught me everything I know about page layout (constantly working to eliminate white space on the page) and honestly, everything I know about how to write for sports. I mean, I’m trying to keep these paragraphs around two sentences, which is a sports-writing trick he ingrained in me as a journalist. I didn’t even realize I was doing it; his advice has gone that far that it is simply second nature.
Logging onto zoom for critique every Thursday never felt like a chore, but rather an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to soak up the incredible ideas Matt had. I will never forget Matt’s (much-needed) reassurance to our staff when we realized we had made a mistake in one of our print issues; even from a perspective of someone who has been around journalism for a long time, his understanding and quickness to jump in and simply reassure us was a key cog in our staff regaining our morale. His leadership in that moment is something I will never, ever be able to thank him enough for.
I can’t thank Professor Tullis enough for his belief in me and my potential as a journalist. With my time in the sports section, Matt extended me the opportunity to take one of his classes in sports journalism (and offered to fight for me in order to go around the prerequisites of the class so that I could take it). The extra attention and care he always showed us was so much more than I could’ve ever asked for, and I was grateful to know such a kind person.
I never had the chance to take a class with Professor Tullis, but I know for a fact I would have enjoyed his perspective, his fun personality and his expansive knowledge. I don’t come from a journalism background and I don’t really have much experience in it at all outside of The Mirror, but Matt basically taught me a full semester’s worth of concepts in sports writing that I would have never obtained anywhere else. The academic and life skills he taught me will be ones I carry with me for a lifetime.
Helping me learn from my mistakes, continue growing and pushing me to improve and be better are just a few of the lasting legacies that Professor Tullis will have on my life. I think I speak for our entire staff when I say that we’ll be thinking of Matt’s wife, Alyssa and his two children, Emery and Lily, during this incredibly difficult time. Rest in peace, Matt.
When thinking about Professor Tullis, or Matt as The Mirror knew him, I am immediately saddened that our time with him was cut way too short. In the past couple of days, I have found myself frequently reminiscing about our Thursday meets, recalling Matt’s thorough critique of our newest issues. His passion for writing and dedication to our success was obvious from the endless guidance he provided on our weekly calls, always with a goofy smile and cheerful disposition. Every week, I looked forward to these calls, excited to hear his helpful suggestions and validating compliments. I believe his valuable insight made us all stronger writers and journalists over the past few years.
For me, it was Professor Tullis who opened my eyes to a possible career in journalism. As a freshman, I declared an English Creative Writing major but candidly wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with it. After having Professor Tullis as my mentor, I just recently decided to declare a second major in Digital Journalism and scoured the university’s course registration for all of the classes that he taught in hopes of working alongside him in my final years at Fairfield. It’s heartbreaking to know that I will have to continue this journey without his guidance as Professor Tullis was someone who I not only looked up to as a mentor and as a writer, but as a very brave and strong human being.
In one of our first meetings together, Matt casually mentioned his history with his illness and how he had written a book called “Running With Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer.” I remember him nonchalantly describing it to us as I sat there absolutely awe-inspired. I realize now that his past battle was what shaped him into the professor we all admired and loved – someone who was incredibly talented, caring, optimistic and brave. While I’m distraught thinking about how I will never have the opportunity to sit in one of his classrooms, I am grateful for the two years I was fortunate to have Professor Tullis as a mentor. In such a short amount of time he played a large role in shaping me into the person I am today – I can only imagine the impact he has had on those he mentored and taught before me. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Alyssa, and his two children Emery and Lily. May Matt rest in peace.
On behalf of the whole Mirror staff we would like to send our thoughts, prayers and condolences to Matt’s family, friends, and anyone else who was lucky enough to know him.
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