By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
Whether he was in or out of the classroom with them, his students said they almost always learned something from him, regardless of the setting.
Tom Kotulak, an associate professor of political science at Indiana University Southeast, died on Tuesday, June 11, following a heart attack.
Joe Wert, dean of the School of Social Sciences, said he’ll miss Kotulak after working with him for 14 years.
“He was an excellent teacher, a great colleague and a good friend,” Wert said. “He was an extremely dedicated teacher, probably one of our most, if not the most, popular teachers on campus.”
Adam Dickey, chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party and IU Southeast alumnus, said Kotulak not only helped him understand material in class, but also helped inspire him to pursue politics after graduation.
He said it wasn’t uncommon for Kotulak to spend time with students outside of the lecture hall.
“It wasn’t just good enough for him to see you in class once or twice a week. He wanted to invest himself in you,” Dickey said. “He wanted you to understand that he knew what was going on with you. He cared about you on a level that went beyond the student-teacher relationship. In some ways, I think those conversations outside of class led to much more growth than the lectures in class did.”
Chancellor Sandra Patterson Randles said in an email that Kotulak’s contribution to the campus and its students was huge.
“Dr. Kotulak was a pillar of the faculty here at IU Southeast and one of our most beloved professors,” Patterson Randles said. “His dedication to his students and his craft was unparalleled. Doc's students came away from his classroom thoroughly inspired and energized. Outside the classroom, he took an active role in their lives and encouraged them to become involved — particularly in civics. He was an educator and mentor in the truest sense of the words and he will be greatly missed by our campus.”
Kotulak started working at IU Southeast — his first university position — in 1995. He earned his doctorate in public policy analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dickey said Kotulak’s students are already clamoring for ways to memorialize him at IU Southeast, but his inspiration in them already speaks volumes about him.
“People who’ve moved away or have nothing to do with IU Southeast other than having been a student are wanting to respond to make scholarships in his name,” Dickey said. “That’s a compliment of how big of a figure he was to so many of us on that campus and in the community. He really, in many ways, was a titan or larger than life individual because of his ability to give of himself to others.”
Funeral arrangements for Kotulak have not yet been announced.