In Memory: Thomas Tullis(1952-2020)
As some of you may know, at the end of March, one of our Board Members, Tom Tullis, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Over the last month, Tom fought a hard battle against the virus. Sadly, Tom passed away from complications of COVID-19 on April 29, 2020. He was 68 years old.
The UXPA Boston Board of Directors has been in communication with Tom’s family and is offering them all the support we can in this difficult time. Arrangements are developing, and we will share information with the membership about memorial services when they are ready.
Tom was a valued member of our board and a highly respected international contributor to the field of UX for over 40 years. Whether he was laying the Smackdown as Mr. T-Test or sharing his love of research and data with everyone, his charm, wit, intelligence, and passion had no equal. We will miss our dedicated volunteer, mentor, UX expert, photographer, teacher, author, colleague, and friend. We will ensure that his legacy and kindness will be forever remembered throughout our profession.
If you have any questions or need support resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please stay safe and healthy on behalf of the UXPA Boston Board of Directors.
A note from Cheryl, Tom’s daughter:
My dad, Tom Tullis, passed away on April 29, 2020, due to multiple complications related to COVID-19. He was famous for funnies with Fudge (my childhood teddy bear), taking an unnecessary amount of photographs of landscapes and of his family, as well as helping to build a Space Station and generally being a geek. He was a pioneer in the field of user experience, an inspiration to his colleagues and students, and my hero.
This has been an indescribably difficult time for my family and I. We know that he was loved. We know that he was admired around the world; not only for his accomplishments, but also for being a genuinely good human being. We’re asking for donations to Global FoodBanking in his memory. While we can’t currently hold a large in-person gathering for him, we plan on doing so in the future. For those in the UX community specifically, we’ll be hosting a virtual memorial soon.
Thank you. Please stay safe, and take care of each other.
Obituary and Service Details
The obituary can be found online here and in the Sunday, May 3, 2020, print edition of the Boston Globe.
Public Celebration/Memorial took place on June 20 at 4 p.m. EST.
The recording and transcript of the service are available here.
To view the former registration and event details, go here.
Shared Photo Album
We’ve started a community photo album for pictures of Tom.
Photo of Tom Tullis
Memories of Tom
“My first job in UX Research was at Fidelity, under the fearless leadership of Tom. His mentorship made a true impact on my career and the fact that I found a job and life, that I am so passionate about – as I’m sure it did for so many others. Tom’s presence, from conferences to Bentley alumni events, will truly be missed.”
— Mary Gribbons.
“I had the pleasure of working for Tom when he served as VP of User Experience Research at Fidelity Investments. Tom’s weekly Friday morning team meetings reminded me of dinner at my grandfather’s house. Tom was the grandfather that everybody loved and respected. He was a great listener and a great model for any leader. We all will miss his unwavering willingness to teach and pass his knowledge along. We all are better technical professionals and better people because of Tom. He will be missed.”
— Eric Hamilton.
“I first found Tom’s work when I was in grad school. It was insightful and interesting and spoke to me as a budding researcher. I had the pleasure to run into Tom at conferences and events through the years. He was always gracious and engaging. He will be sorely missed.”
— Bob Schumacher.
“Before I ever got to meet Tom, I learned of the legend. Starting my career in UX research with no formal training or education, I was given one of his books, and my manager told me about how Tom was essentially the godfather of the profession on which I was about to get myself into. Several years later, when I was out for a “doctor’s appointment,” I would find myself in front of Tom, interviewing with him. I remember that interview like it was yesterday, and I was like a giddy kid who wanted to tell my current manager about who I had the opportunity to meet…the legend himself. Tom and his team took a shot on me, and for that, I will forever be grateful. He took his time to get to know me, and I feel like, over time, I had the chance to learn more about him. Our weekly team meetings were one of the highlights of working at Fidelity. Jokes, trivia, and a little bit of time to talk shop. After his distinguished career at Fidelity ended with his retirement, Tom continued to impress upon me the importance of living life with a smile. Even with everything going on in his life, he continued to stay positive and celebrated his family’s accomplishments and travels on Facebook. When I began going through my own health challenges, he was one of the first people I reached out to. As I look at my message history with him from 2019, I wrote to him, “Let’s beat this thing,” to which he responded, “Thanks, Bernard! We’ll do it!” I am forever grateful for that moment. It set my energy on a new trajectory to help my own healing process. Tom, thank you for everything. I am happy our lives had the chance to cross paths. I will miss you.” — Bernard Klein.
“It’s hard to believe someone like Tom Tullis is “gone.” He was always there, before the gig, after the gig, and all of the in betweens. If he wasn’t regaling us with it’s-not-quite-what-you-think usability stories or showing us compelling charts of which experience was better, he was taking photos of everyone else sharing their stories. I’ll never forget Tom’s life-saving, live-electricity sensor story, the excitement he could never contain around his various personas (e.g., Mr. T-Test), and the innocent way he’d tell a joke. This thing called life can be too short and the people you really grow to love and respect, like Tom, can bring that reality “home” in quite a powerful way. I just hope the testing labs where Tom is now are beyond even his imagination and that the rest of us can embrace each other with the same approach to inclusion, diversity, honesty, and respect that Tom did so naturally.”
— Doug Roerden
“Tom was my mentor, plain and simple. He forever changed the way I think about my profession. He created the career path I walk on now, and I know many many others are on that path. My book would never have been written if Tom’s book hadn’t come first. And although Tom had every right to strike a patronizing pose, he never did. He passed along his knowledge freely, openly, and treated interns like he treated CEOs. As if that wasn’t enough–he was a lot of fun to be around! Who but Tom would have come up with the ‘Quant vs.Qual Smackdown’ idea? And who but Tom could pull it off? When Tom and I collided (and both went down) as we tried to chest-bump at the Smackdown, I ruptured my Achilles heel, and required surgery! Of course, I never blamed Tom–it was just a freak accident. But I take pride in the fact that I required surgery because of an encounter with the great Tom Tullis!”
— Mike Fritz
“I first met and learned about Tom taking his Measuring Usability class at Bentley way back in 2007. As a lifelong math-phobic person, it was the first time someone described math in a way I actually understood!…and applied it in a genuinely useful way (to me)! He and his teachings were really transformative about how I thought about UX at the time. Big thanks to Tom for all he did, he will be missed!”
— Drew Condon
“I first met Tom at a Boston UXPA conference. He was such a friendly face with so much passion for ux. Later, I saw his Smackdown as the infamous Mr. T-Test—proudly advocating for quantitative research. That UXPA session is certainly in my top 10 all-time favorites, and I loved every minute of it. And then last year, I had the privilege of being one of his students at Bentley. He would open every class with trivia or a riddle, and he had anecdotes for every possible question asked. I feel very fortunate to have learned from Tom, and I know his legacy will carry on.”
– Kelsey Johns.
“Tom was a fantastic colleague. I was one of his internal clients at Fidelity when we were re-imagining the nav bar of the site in the mid-2000s. He conceived of his first ever online card sort for our project and got a lot of joy out of inventing and trying new methods. He was very patient explaining testing plans and results to his audience. I know I learned a lot from him, as did so many. He’ll be greatly missed.”
— Martha Hayward.
“I remember interviewing with Tom years ago at Fidelity Investments and chatting with him at several UX events. He was a wonderful man, a wealth of information and someone I was fortunate to have met.”
— Karen Shor.