Known by many in the campus community simply as Jim, James T. Dolak served in various leadership roles in Housing & Dining Services for 36 years. After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Dolak passed away on Sept. 8, 2020.
Two memorial trees to honor Dolak will be planted on campus Thursday, July 22. The first memorial tree will be planted just south of the Academic Village Commons at 10 a.m., and the second tree will be planted to the west of the University Village Center at 11 a.m. All members of the community are welcome to attend.
Born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Dolak obtained his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and moved to Colorado in 1984 to start his career at Colorado State University. His first position was the Assistant to the Director for Management Information Systems and Research for the Office of Housing & Residence Education.
He served in that role until 1994, when he was hired as the Associate Director of Housing & Food Service. In 2002, Dolak was named the Executive Director of Housing & Dining Services and served in that capacity until he retired in 2017. He then continued doing part-time work for the department on special projects, including Meridian Village, until July 2020. Dolak also served as an assistant professor in the School of Occupational & Educational Studies (now the School of Education) and was an academic advisor for over 20 years.
“Many of us knew Jim as a valued colleague, mentor, teacher, leader and friend. He will be remembered for his kindness, generosity, and engaging nature. I often asked Jim for advice and appreciated and now very much miss his mentorship, patience, and wisdom,” said Blanche Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs.
An incredible legacy
Dolak helped transform residential areas on campus as executive director of Housing & Dining Services.
During Dolak’s tenure as executive director of Housing & Dining Services, the residential areas on campus were transformed from the basic H-shaped dormitories of the 1960s into collaborative and state-of-the-art living learning communities with integrated classrooms, updated student amenities, modern dining facilities and sustainable design.
“Jim left an incredible legacy on this campus during his 36 years in Housing & Dining Services. He was caring, passionate, wise and a brilliant manager who always strived to learn more and to be better,” said Mari Strombom, executive director of Housing & Dining Services who served as the associate executive director with him for many years.
During his time as executive director of Housing & Dining, Dolak transformed the residential side of campus through multiple construction projects, including new buildings (Summit, Academic Village, Laurel Village and Aggie Village); fourth floor and lobby additions to Braiden and Parmelee; major lobby renovations in Ingersoll and International House; and updated exteriors on Ingersoll, Edwards, Corbett, and Newsom. He also oversaw renovations of all existing dining centers including Corbett, Durrell, Braiden and relocation of the Bake Shop.
“During Jim’s tenure, on-campus housing capacity increased significantly,” Strombom said. “Jim’s vision ensured that these construction projects weren’t just building beds, they were creating a living and learning community that supported students, were sustainable and elevated the campus aesthetic.”
As the director of Housing & Dining, Dolak showed great vision and was able to translate it into reality said Dave McKelfresh, a long-time colleague and friend. “He believed in the power of the residential experience, and the positive and lasting impact on college students,” McKelfresh said. “He will be remembered as a leader who managed the largest department on campus with great foresight, humility, and compassion.”
Dolak is survived by his wife, Rachel Moriarty, and their three daughters, Taylor, Morgan and Harper. He was a devoted husband and loving father who put his family first. He enjoyed skiing, sailing, swimming, tennis, fly fishing, reading and listening to Paul Simon and Garrison Keillor.
As the family shared in his obituary: “Jim was humble at work and home, was always looking to lend a helping hand, he genuinely loved to make people laugh and he impressed people with his impeccable memory. He was knowingly kind, giving, hard-working, supportive, helpful and unconditionally loving to everyone around him.”
Celebrating the life of Jim Dolak
Two memorial trees will be planted on campus to celebrate the life of Jim Dolak. Members of the university community are welcome to attend.
Day: Thursday, July 22
Locations: South of the Academic Village Commons at 10 a.m.; west of the University Village Center at 11 a.m.