University of Minnesota
Department of Sociology

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Timothy A Ortyl

Department Affiliations


We are all saddened by the sudden death of our graduate student, Tim Ortyl. Colleagues and friends gathered at a memorial on November 7th to remember Tim and celebrate his life, research, and accomplishments. We were joined by his parents and Professor Alex Rothman, CLA Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, who conferred Tim's Ph.D.

Timothy Adam Ortyl, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, passed away suddenly on October 25, 2013 of complications from an epileptic seizure. Tim was a graduate student in the Sociology Department at the University of Minnesota at the time of his passing. Tim was a cherished member of the department, and was only a few months away from completing his dissertation.

Tim was a highly accomplished scholar, receiving fellowships and awards including the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota, and the Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Fellowship from the American Sociological Association. His work has been published or was forthcoming in academic journals, including The Sociological Quarterly, Journal of Marriage and Family, Demography, and Contexts, and a book chapter in an edited volume on same-sex marriage.

Tim’s research interests were in families, sex and gender, sexualities, and social inequality, and his dissertation was examining patterns of relationship innovation using 163 interviews with gays and lesbians in partnerships, long-term heterosexual cohabiters, and people in polyamorous relationships. Tim was also an accomplished teacher, having served as an instructor or TA in many undergraduate sociology courses at U of M, and he earned very strong ratings from his students. His friends and colleagues remember him as loyal, loved, a community builder and leader, confident, purposeful, and someone with an especially wry sense of humor. All of us who were lucky enough to be in one of these valued groups know and feel deeply how important he was to us and to the social fabric of our communities; this includes his family, his fraternity, his scholarly collaborators and community, various advocacy groups, Ohio State, and the University of Minnesota. Tim was one of a kind and will be terribly missed.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Epilepsy Foundation ( or the charity of your choice.


  • Families
  • Sexualities
  • Gender
  • Social Movements
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Social Stratification

Educational Background

  • M.A.: Sociology, University of Minnesota, 2008.
  • B.A.: Sociology & Political Science, The Ohio State University, 2004.
  • Ph.D. Expected: Sociology, University of Minnesota, April 2014.

Research Activities

  • University of Minnesota Close Relationships Study (With Professor Kathy Hull): This project draws upon interviews, focus groups, oral histories and archival material to examine the close relationships in the lives of sexual minorities. LGBT people are often invoked as threats to family in 'family values' discourses, even as the gay rights movement focuses more than ever on a range of family issues including marriage and parenting rights. But we have little recent evidence about how ordinary LGBT people think about 'family,' and whether they agree with the LGBT movement's increasing family focus. This study will improve on past research on these issues by including a wide range of people within lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, including people who are single, partnered, parents and non-parents, people from a range of racial/ethnic and class backgrounds, and people living outside of big cities as well as urban residents. The goals of this project are to advance theorizing about so-called nontraditional families and to assess how well the current efforts of the national LGBT movement match the needs and priorities of its constituencies., 2005 - present
  • Answering the Race Question (with Carolyn Liebler): This project utilizes restricted use Census data to examine changes between the 1990 and 2000 Census regarding people who identify as Native American and Native Hawaiian. This project seeks to identify characteristics of people who change racial identification on the Census at two different points in time., 2010 - present
  • Union Formation Attitudes at the Intersection of Gender and Sexuality. With Kathy Hull and Ann Meier: This paper uses the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to compare union formation attitudes among young adults by sexual identity and gender.
  • Constructing Queer Families: An Ethnographic Analysis of an LGBTQ Families Conference: This paper is an ethnography of an annual conference that examines how family discourses are deployed in LGBTQ communities

Professional Activities

  • Member of the Contexts Graduate Student Editorial Board: 2008 - 2010
  • ASA LGBTQ Caucus Liaison/Organizer: 2008 - present


  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, 2011 - 2012
  • Graduate School Thesis Research Grant, 2009 - 2010
  • Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Fellowship, ASA Sexualities Section, 2011
  • Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, U of M Graduate School, 2011 - 2012

Courses Taught

  • Sociology 3221 - Sociology of Gender (Spring 2008)
  • Sociology 3501 - Sociology of Families (Fall 2008)
  • Sociology 4551 - Sociology of Sexualities (Spring 2009; Summer 2011)
  • Sociology 3811 - Basic Social Statistics (Spring 2013)
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