Tito Gutierrez, former Affirmations supporter and board member, died peacefully at his home in Arlington, Virginia of lymphoma on Nov. 3.
Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador on Feb. 15, 1944, he lived in Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Washington D.C. While his father served in the Foreign Service, he studied his junior and senior years of high school at the Notre Dame Internacional School in Rome.
He returned to the U.S. and entered Columbia University in New York City with a four year scholarship from the New York Times.
With his fluency in languages, he guided foreign visitors to the U.S. He earned a Masters Degree from American University while teaching languages at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C. He started his career in social justice efforts when he was hired as Program Officer of the Campaign of Human Development. He became the director of Grants and Loans.
He then worked in Boston Fair Housing office at the Whitney Foundation in New York, and for nearly 20 years at the Kresge Foundation based in Troy, Michigan.
In a statement to all Kresge employees, President and CEO of The Kresge Foundation Rip Rapson said, “When I arrived at Kresge in 2006, Ernie was already a legend in our field. He was an ardent champion of GLBT issues and issues of diversity, helping shape our institutional commitment to these issues well before many other philanthropic institutions. Ernie was gracious, generous, thoughtful and consummately professional. He leaves the world a far better place for his compassion and commitment. I will miss him.”
Nancy Katz, former board president of Affirmations, remembered Gutierrez fondly and with great respect for his contributions to the Affirmations Capital Campaign that raised $5.3 million to build the new community center in downtown Ferndale. “I loved him,” said Katz. “The big thing about Tito is, without him, I really believe we would not have had a successful capital campaign. He provided guidance, advice that was really critical. He really knew how to do it and he led us through the whole process, and he was clearly instrumental in getting the Kresge Foundation’s matching grant of over $600,000.”
John Tsakos, a Grosse Pointe chiropractor and one of Gutierrez’s closest friends, described him as high energy, active and someone who loved to travel. “He went down the Amazon, to Africa and the Galapagos Island,” said Tsakos. “He was always upbeat and positive. He was great emotional support for me personally. He was brilliant and humble and willing to share and not take credit for it.”
He is survived by his mother, Maria Guevara Gutierrez; his brother, Richard and sister-in-law, Nancy; his sister, Sonia of Tucson, Arizona; two nephews – Michael and his wife Linda and Stephan Gutierrez. Tito was predeceased by his father, Ernest B. Gutierrez Sr.
A memorial service is planned for Jan. 9, 2015 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Affirmations Community Center, 290 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale MI 48220.