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Portrait of Wylie Sirk in front of Neff Hall.

Wylie Sirk: Mastodon Memories

This summer series explores the campus experiences of current PFW faculty and staff who are also alumni.

By Blake Sebring

July 13, 2023

Wylie Sirk, B.S. ’77, M.S. ’81

Associate dean and program director, Department of Counseling and Graduate Education

After being retired for a year following a long career that included work as an elementary school teacher, principal, and superintendent of North Adams Community Schools, Wylie Sirk came back to Purdue University Fort Wayne in 2014 as a visiting professor. In 2015, he became a full-time assistant clinical professor. 

Where are you from and why did you choose to go to school here?

WS: I grew up in Fort Wayne and went to Elmhurst High School. Shortly before I graduated high school in 1971, I decided I wanted to become a teacher, and I decided to start here. I had a little interruption because that’s when the Vietnam War was going on and my draft number was 18 (meaning highly likely to be drafted). After I started my first semester here, I decided to go ahead and enlist in the Naval Reserves. I left and went two years active, and then I was ready to really finish my degree and get my career started. It was just as easy to start again here, living at home, and I got my general elementary education degree in 1977. I got my master’s in administration and supervision in 1981.

What car were you driving at the time? 

WS:  I was driving a 1963 convertible, light blue exterior with a dark blue interior, Galaxy 500. So many times, I’ve wished I still had that car.

Why did you pick your major? 

WS: I wanted to help others, and partly because I had some cousins who were teachers. I knew things that they were doing, and I respected them so that kind of really put me on the path. I saw teaching young people as a way of giving of self and helping others.

How did attending school here help change your life?

WS: It helped me to become more mature and really put me in a position that I was prepared to be a teacher. The program was very strong and got us out into the schools, so we knew if this is what we really wanted to do. I felt prepared as a teacher when I had my own job.

What kind of music were you listening to, and who was your favorite artist or band?

WS: Seals & Crofts and Bread; The Beatles of course, and Neil Diamond. Probably Diana Ross and the Supremes were my favorites.

Did you have a favorite professor and why?

WS: Maxine Huffman, just her love for kids, her love teaching reading. She had a passion for reading. That’s how I went ahead and have a reading endorsement from her program. Lowell Madden was another one for the same reasons. He taught language arts, and his love for teaching.

Why did you want to come back to the university?

WS: I see this as a wonderful opportunity to be able to continue both myself in education and helping to bring strong administrators to the schools. We need strong leadership, and this is my way of helping to do that. I am so encouraged by the leadership of our young educators in the field and their drive to influence and support the success of all students. 

How has PFW changed for the better?

WS: I do think that having the Purdue name does give a really positive sign out there. We have candidates applying who many times in their statement of purpose are looking at the reputation of Purdue Fort Wayne. I think that is what has really emerged out into our region and our state.