Remembering Professor Tufts

By: Ellie Parker  |  October 8, 2019

By Ellie Parker, Features Editor

Am I the only girl here who doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life?

I was always so jealous of the born doctors, entertainers, and housewives. For as far back as I can remember, there was never a driving force in my professional prospects. For this reason, I spent the first six months of my sophomore year exploring my options, weaving in and out of Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, trying to find my passion. 

I went through the gamut: giving every major an equal opportunity to wow me. Nothing did. 

By the end of my sophomore year, I was passionately dispassionate, exhausted by the pursuit of zeal. As a self-hating BIMA major, I had made my peace with the fact that I would have to find self-fulfillment outside of my job. Though it wasn’t ideal, I was at a loss. I expected college to discover myself for me. I never imagined having to chase my interests so fervently. 

I blamed myself. I came into college with unrealistic expectations. I remember watching Dead Poets Society on the plane to New York. I assumed that my first class would garner more than interest — I was in search of a mentor. My dreams were left unfulfilled until the second semester of my sophomore year, where, at the front of the classroom, there he sat, my Robin Williams of Manhattan. 

A Princeton grad, trained in the MLB — Professor Tufts had all of the makings of a world-class mentor. But it wasn’t the way he taught that guided his students. Professor Tufts didn’t need to teach. He educated us through his character. I was captivated the moment I met him. His command of the room was only second to his respect and devotion to his students. Never had I met someone so masterful in so many different trades. But what I loved most about Professor Tufts was the way he viewed hardship. Countless times in his life, Professor Tufts reached a stumbling block, and every single time, he climbed over it. Be it injuries sustained in the baseball diamond, determination in the pursuit of conversion, or his health struggles, Professor Tufts was proof that giving up was never an option. 

He was the embodiment of grit. He persevered even when lying down seemed like the only choice. He changed the lives of so many of us just by being who he was. 

I only had the pleasure of being Professor Tufts’s student for one semester, but his impact has guided me through my years at Stern. In one, twice-a-week course on the benefits of top-down vs. bottom-up leadership, I learned what it meant to be a fighter from a man who had mastered the art. Though professionally Professor Tufts was many things, at his core, my mentor was a warrior — someone who so passionately faced life’s most difficult tests, that his defiance became his identity. 

Professor Tufts taught me how to find strength in not knowing and comfort in confusion. He taught me to build myself from the inside out. He taught me that passion is more than professional accolades and vast achievements, it is even more than knowing what you want or who you are. Professor Tufts taught me that genuine passion can only be found in the confidence that you never gave up trying to figure it out. 

The YU Observer Editorial Board sends our condolences to Professor Tufts’ family.

Photo: Bob Tufts