Don Dobler leaves legacy of excellence in CSU College of Business

Academic rigor, faculty who care about the students, and industry partnerships are the pillars of success of Colorado State University’s College of Business. Donald W. Dobler established that lasting foundation 50 years ago as the first dean of the college. Today, the college ranks among the best business schools in the country because of Dobler’s incredible leadership and vision.

Former College of Business Dean Dobler, 88, passed away peacefully Dec. 8.

From left, Donald Dobler (future College of Business Dean), Roy Romer (Future Colorado Governor), Unidentified, Unidentified and Unidentified, hang out on campus on December 6, 1948.
From left, Don Dobler (future College of Business Dean) and Roy Romer (future Colorado Governor) visit with fellow students on campus, December 1948.

Laying the foundation

Dobler served as dean of the College of Business for 20 years beginning in 1966. He was hired by CSU President William Morgan to bring the University’s business courses together into a college, and in turn Dobler hired the first faculty members.

Jim Francis, now the director of the college’s Center for Professional Development and Business Research, and George Kress served under Dean Dobler as chairs of the Department of Management and the Department of Marketing, respectively. John Olienyk, former associate dean and professor emeritus, and John Plotnicki, associate professor of Computer Information Systems, also were among those hires, as was Ted Weston, professor emeritus, who helped bring some of the first computers to the college.

“Don had a vision of what the future was going to look like and he worked hard to position the College of Business and our students who graduated with business degrees to take advantage of the opportunities that he saw coming,” said Olienyk.

Dobler was an innovator when it came to understanding the importance of the emerging technology industry.

“Under Don’s leadership, our faculty was at the forefront of the change taking place with technology in universities and in the nation,” said Olienyk. “We were one of the first to have a Computer Information Systems Department and Don was instrumental in attracting and keeping good, strong faculty to build that program into what is now one of the flagship programs in the College of Business.”

A visionary

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Don Dobler, first dean of the College of Business, during his tenure from 1966 –1986.

Dobler was a visionary in the area of distance education. He was responsible for helping to develop the college’s renowned distance MBA program, the first of its kind in the country. Today, CSU’s Distance MBA program is ranked not only as the best program in the state, but among the nation’s best.

“Back in the 1970s he was instrumental in developing the college’s distance education with big, clunky video cameras and producing college business courses on VHS tapes that were then mailed to people taking business courses remotely,” said Olienyk. “That was very innovative at the time and it laid the groundwork for what now is a worldwide distance education program and our college is a global leader in that field.”

A mentor to all

As a new dean leading a new college, Dobler knew building strong partnerships with industry partners would build the credibility of the college. He connected with industry leaders such as Bob Everitt, who also helped to lay a foundation of great success at the college. Everitt was one of the first industry partners of the College of Business, and was instrumental in spreading the word about the college within the real estate and construction industry.

“The professors at the College of Business really admired him. He was a mentor to all of them,” said Everitt. “I thought all the professors that Don attracted to come to CSU were outstanding, for having a brand-new business school, and it was obviously due to his personality and good judgment. He developed the accounting department to be one of the best in the state and I often heard from professionals in Denver about how CSU was developing a great business school. Don did a wonderful job of laying the foundation for a strong business school at Colorado State University. He also was a big part of Colorado A&M transitioning from a college to being a university in the 1960s. The business school took us to a new level of being a university.”

Students always came first

The dedication of the Everitt Real Estate Center at the Colorado State University College of Business, September 23, 2005
Former College of Business Dean Don Dobler at the dedication of the Everitt Real Estate Center at CSU’s College of Business, September 2005.

Dobler also was known for always putting students first. After serving as dean for two decades, Dobler and his family established the Dobler Family Scholarship fund to support College of Business students.

“He was a remarkable person and leader,” said Beth Walker, current dean of the college. “Where we are now is because of his vision 50 years ago, truly. Students always came first and it really started with him. He was also committed to providing students with an education that was relevant, that would help them get jobs and be successful in their jobs. We still do that today. He was interested in a college that valued giving back and being community-centered. That mission and value-system exists today, and those will be the very same values that endure 50 years from now.”

Last year, the Dr. Donald W. Dobler Conference Room was dedicated in Rockwell Hall. The ceremony marked the launch of the College of Business’ Transformations Project honoring the people who have made a significant difference during the college’s first 50 years.

“Don Dobler was the quintessential pioneer and entrepreneur,” said Ajay Menon, former dean of the college. “His high standards for excellence and professionalism were ones that I have tried to emulate throughout my entire career. His loyalty to faculty, staff, and especially students was second to none. I always appreciated his friendship, guidance and counsel at every turn during my tenure as dean of the College of Business.”

An incredible alumnus

Dobler graduated from Colorado A&M in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. As a student, he was a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Fraternity, student government, and the basketball and tennis teams. He worked as an engineer for Westinghouse Electric Corporation and as a manager of procurement and materials for FMC Corporation. Later, he earned MBA and graduate degrees in management from Stanford University.

Dobler married Elaine Carlson in 1951. Carlson graduated from Colorado A&M in 1953 with a degree in home economics. While a student, Elaine was secretary for student government, a member of the Collegian newspaper staff and 1950 homecoming queen. The Doblers raised three children: David D. Dobler, an architect; Daniel W. Dobler, an emergency physician; and Kathleen D. Seaman, a CPA and mother of four children.

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Newly appointed College of Business Dean Beth Walker meets with founding Dean, Don Dobler, October, 2015.

For 17 years, Dobler served as the editor of the International Journal of Purchasing and Materials Management (now the Journal of Supply Chain Management) and is a former corporate vice president of the Institute for Supply Management.

His legacy lives on

Dobler’s legacy lives on in one of the best business schools in the nation. The College of Business at Colorado State enrolls more than 2,300 undergraduate majors, more than 1,400 graduate students, and more than 1,500 undergraduate minors from the other seven colleges in the university.

This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the College of Business part-time MBA No. 31 and its online MBA No. 57 in the nation. Bloomberg BusinessWeek also ranked the College of Business as one of the top undergraduate business programs in the country — No. 73 in 2014’s rankings, up from No. 89 the previous year. Ninety percent of undergraduates obtain job offers or placements within 90 days of graduation, and the average starting salary for College of Business graduates is $47,000, one of the highest at Colorado State University.

Memorial Service Feb. 27

A memorial service for Dobler will be held at 11 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2016 at First United Methodist Church in Fort Collins.