Estrella Mountain Community College is mourning the passing of Bryan K. Tippett. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tippett died on February 25, 2015; he was 57 years old.
He served as EMCC’s vice president of academic affairs, a position he held since 2000.
EMCC president, Ernest Lara shared the bad news with the campus community through an email message, which sated, in part: “In so many ways, he was the soul of EMCC – always lifting our thoughts beyond the day-to-day operation of the college to the higher purpose of education. We will never forget his dedication to students, his soaring oratory, and his irreplaceable humor.”
A week earlier, on February 19, 2015, the college announced Tippett had suffered from a serious medical emergency. No other details on the specifics of his medical condition were released to the public. "As we continue to offer support and prayers for Bryan, it is also important that we move forward and support his priorities: student success, faculty and staff, and the learning college," stated Lara.
Consequently, Lara has asked Clay Goodman, vice president of occupational education, to assume control of all the instructional duties of the college.
Meanwhile, friends and colleagues rallied to support Tippett and set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help with medical expenses.
The campaign homepage describes Tippett as someone who “has dedicated his life to making a positive impact on the lives of his family, friends, and colleagues, and the innumerable students whose futures have been transformed by his commitment to learning. From time spent working in healthcare and higher education, to his current journey to complete his law degree, Bryan's infinite caring, inspiration, humor, and spirit continue to touch all of our lives.”
“This is crazy with a K!”
News of Tippett’s medical emergency and death have been met with sadness and confusion over the lack of information. Privacy laws, however, prevent college officials from releasing the specifics of its employees’ health.
“My reaction action was shock; I just thought “no way” I just saw him not too long ago and he looked perfect!” says Celeste Silvas, who works at EMCC's Student Union. She remembers Tippett’s contagious smile: “he was coming by to get popcorn and I was serving it. I remember he said that he enjoyed seeing staff giving service with a smile. He automatically fit in, and was very friendly with students."
Reached via email, EMCC mathematics faculty and faculty senate president Luvia Rivera talked about what an incredible man Tippett was. Trustworthy, humorous, caring, inspiring and committed were among a few of the words she used to describe him. “Bryan was that person everyone wanted to talk to because he always made us feel special and truly cared about us as human beings,” Rivera stated. “He took every opportunity to validate our talents. He shared himself in a very authentic way, and his contagious humor and smile were loved by everyone who he came in contact with on a daily basis.”
Rivera’s loving and thoughtful parting words with a dear friend say a lot of the relationship Tippett had with EMCC faculty: “Bryan, we love and will miss you everyday. Thank you for sharing of yourself wholeheartedly everyday”.
The sentiment expressed by Rivera was echoed at a Celebration of Life event held on March 4, 2015 at the Estrella Conference Center, where current and former campus employees paid tribute to the beloved administrator. This photo montage created for the occasion, describes Tippett as a "loving partner, a champion of access to higher education, a dear friend, and a caring family member."
Tippett made his mark with students, too.
A larger, district-wide memorial is being planned where people from all the Maricopa Community Colleges, students, alumni and the community at large will be invited to partake.
Joanna Tic, a student ambassador at EMCC, remembers the administrator's signature smile: “Whenever Dr. Tippett was in a room he always had a smile and showed interest in the students. He never brushed off a question when a student showed interest or concern at Estrella.”
“I am in complete shock,” she added.
Jacqueline Sandoval, an EMCC alumna now working at the Arizona House of Representatives, shared with TLP a memorable moment: years ago, she was working at the college and Dr. Tippett had a hectic day. He made a comment about how crazy the day had been. Sandoval remembers it well: “I said to him, ‘Crazy with a K’ and he burst out a laughing and said –‘Yes, Jackie, Crazy with a K!’”
(Dr. C. Rosales contributed to this article)