By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Tim Doolittle is a fount of knowledge, wisdom, and advice.

Looking for guidance on how to select the most appropriate upholstery fabric for your new living room sofa? Tim can easily help you with that. (And then will proceed to furnish the rest of your home in his spare time.) Need someone in your life who is qualified to tell you if you are experiencing appendicitis v. indigestion, a panic attack v. a heart attack, or if you need stitches v. lots of Band-Aids and Neosporin? Tim’s your man. In search of the perspective of a husband, father, and grandfather? After decades of marriage, six children, and five grandchildren, Tim has lots to share. Longing for advice on what to do when you find yourself faced with the uncertainty that follows being laid off after decades in industry? That might be Tim’s best story of all. 

Tim Doolittle was born in Binghamton, NY.  After a brief stint in Florida during his early childhood, he returned to Broome County and graduated from Chenango Valley High School. He clocked less than a full semester in SUNY Broome’s Computer Science: A.S. program, before withdrawing from the College to work in retail. 

“I started working for Foot Locker selling the original Air Jordan’s. I did well there and progressed through their management program, which propelled me to oversee several stores. It was around that time that I relocated to Florida and switched from selling footwear to furniture. I would go to customers’ homes, evaluate the space, and then furnish each room,” shared Doolittle. 

While Florida has its charms, Doolittle longed for the Southern Tier. He returned to Binghamton and devoted the next twenty-five years to the furniture industry. Tim loved that his positions as a sales manager and a head buyer could allow him to be both analytical and creative. Most of all, he loved working with people, which made the management portion of his career a true pleasure. When furniture market trends began to drop, Doolittle’s employer began issuing layoffs, starting from the top. The blow was crushing. 

Doolittle used the weeks post-layoff to reevaluate his professional career. Through journaling, Tim realized that he was in the stage of his life where he wanted to “matter more.” Sure, his three decades-long vocation of helping people transform their houses into homes was meaningful, but he wondered if he could make even more of an impact in another field. 

In January 2016, Tim walked into SUNY Broome’s Admissions Office for a “Walk-in Wednesday” appointment. Armed with a notebook, a pen, and an open mind, he sat down with the Director of Admissions to discuss his options. Together they compared programs, discussed academic timelines, explored career paths and their corresponding salaries, and worked to craft a realistic game plan for a nontraditional, first-time college student, who would need to work full-time while completing his degree. 

Tim left the Admissions Office with two pieces of advice. #1. Enroll in the Health Studies: A.S. program to complete the prerequisite courses that he would need for the Spring 2020 Nursing: Evening-Weekend: A.A.S. program. #2. Pick a hospital in the area and get a job. Any job. Doolittle’s SUNY Broome application was submitted that evening. 

While open to any applicant, SUNY Broome’s Nursing: Evening-Weekend: A.A.S. program was designed to cater to the working professional. Over the course of three years, students complete their nursing classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings, with clinical rotations at area hospitals every other weekend. As a Competitive Health Science Program, applicants for the nursing evening-weekend program are reviewed and admitted based on their performance in prerequisite courses in math and science, their overall academic GPA, and their performance on a nursing entrance exam. 

Though being a college student for the first time in your mid-fifties is certainly daunting, Tim did his best to navigate online learning platforms, master anatomy and physiology, and proceed through the competitive admissions process. 

As an established health studies student, Doolittle felt that he was ready to tackle piece of advice #2. Picking which hospital to work for was easy. 

When Tim was in the sixth grade, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. His family returned to Binghamton from Florida to give his father access to the best cancer treatment that was available at the time… which happened to be offered at Lourdes Hospital. For six months, Tim spent his days doing homework in various waiting rooms and wandering the halls of each floor. Tim had one bright moment each day at Lourdes when he made his way to the hospital cafeteria for lunch.

“I’ll never forget Tim from the cafeteria. At 12, I thought that it was pretty neat that we had the same name. It didn’t take the other Tim too long to realize why I was at the hospital everyday. He did his best to make my lunches extra special, whether that meant slipping me extra fries with my shrimp in a basket or just by talking to me and teasing me so that I didn’t have to eat alone. It’s because of “1978 Tim from the cafeteria,” that I will only ever work for Lourdes Hospital,” shared Doolittle. 

Doolitte first joined the team at Lourdes Hospital as a volunteer, cleaning rooms and changing linens. Staff quickly began to notice Tim’s quiet, efficient work ethic and urged him to apply to become a technician in the emergency room. Doolittle was hired immediately and has remained a full-time tech at Lourdes for the past six years, spanning his time as a student in both the health studies and nursing programs.  

“Especially in the ER, technicians serve as the eyes and ears of the nurses, so that the nurses can serve as the eyes and ears of the physicians. My work as a tech helped me so much while I was in the nursing program. I was able to connect what I learned in classes and labs to things that I had personally experienced as a tech or witnessed nurses do on the floor.” 

The 2020 Nursing Evening-Weekend cohort received their pins and degrees at the conclusion of the Fall 2022 semester. Tim, vice president of his class, proudly represented his fellow new nurses. The definition of a gentleman, Doolittle, is always open to sharing how the events of his layoff in 2016 may just be one the best things that has ever happened to him. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, heed Tim’s advice.

“Don’t make any decisions hastily. Take a step back and do an inventory of yourself, your likes and dislikes, and your personality traits. Use this time to be creative, to journal, to reflect, and before you know it, you will be led in the right direction,” Tim said. 

Update: Timothy Doolittle was named one of eight 2023 Vanguard Award Winners. Congratulations, Tim! 

Were you moved by Tim’s story? Read more encouraging and inspiring stories about SUNY Broome’s current and past students in the latest edition of BROOME Magazine! 

Tim Doolittle joined the wall of nurses at the conclusion of the fall 2022 semester. Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

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