Wheelock Alumna to Fulfill Appointment by President Obama



President Obama recently appointed Barbara J. Tutschek Ells ’60 to serve another 6-year term as a Trustee of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA).

Born and raised in N.J., Barbara earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College, and taught first grade in several areas of the U.S. Her family, including her husband of 54 years, has lived in several areas of the U.S. and in Germany. While raising her family, she was politically active in each of the communities in which they lived. One of her focuses was women’s issues, and she established and staffed a Safe House for Women and Children in Terre Haute, IN, as well as a day care center for the children of these women. She also opened and taught in three different Head-Start preschools.

The family’s move to Boulder, CO, spurred Barbara’s interest in the vast beauty of the Southwest region of the U.S. and Native American arts and crafts, and the interest became life-long for both her and her family as they supported the area’s art forms. Her numerous travels allowed her to meet various American Indian artists, including Amado Pena and R.C. Gorman. She appreciated and collected many art objects from the Southwest.

Barbara says: “People — worldwide — have amazing stories to tell through their various creative arts. It is so very important that we encourage all aspects of this creativity. We must preserve the past, encourage the present, and enrich the future for generations to come.”

Since becoming a member of the Board of Trustees for the IAIA, she has been active with three committees. On the Institutional Advancement Committee, she personally recruited an out-of-state individual to join the newly formed IAIA Foundation Board. She also introduced at least 10 new couples to IAIA who now bring new interest and donations to IAIA’s Scholarship and Building Funds. She has also served on the IAIA Audit Committee and Museum Committee. As a member of the Museum Committee, to increase membership and awareness, Barbara initiated the implementation of Family Activity Days.

Together with her husband, she has made large contributions to the IAIA Scholarship Fund as well as to several new buildings. Their large legacy gift resulted in the naming of the Science and Technology Building in their honor. In addition, they made another donation that provided the funds to build the Art Storage area on the Santa Fe, NM, campus, which now houses all of the IAIA art that is not on display at the downtown Santa Fe museum. In addition, Barbara and her husband have provided significant funds for the building of the Administration and Welcome Center. And recently, they made a major contribution to the planned Performing Arts and Fitness Center on campus.

Outside of her IAIA activities, Barbara has been an active participant in voter registration campaigns and a donor to the Democratic Party at both the national and state levels, in addition to being a strong financial supporter of Emily’s List candidates.

Barbara’s political positions have included:

  • Co-chair of the Indianapolis chapter of the Young Democrats of America while in Indianapolis, IN.
  • Coordinator of the Women’s Caucus, focusing on the recruitment of young women for the Democratic Party
  • Club treasurer of the Indiana state chapter of the National Federation of Democratic Women while in Terre Haute, IN.
  • President of the German-American Club while in Wiesbaden, Germany, and member of this club while in Munich
  • Active member of the Woman’s National Democratic Club while in Lafayette, IN
  • Active in the National Council of Women’s Organizations in 1984 while in Boulder, CO
  • Active member of the Women’s Environment & Development Organization in the early 1990s