The Dolese Effect

Roger Dolese’s Legacy Is Expanding The Number Of Engineer Graduates, Ensuring More Young People Are Prepared To Help Build The Nation’s Future.

by Therese Dunphy

As his tenure at Dolese Bros. Co. drew to an end, Roger Dolese carefully considered what to do with the business. Mark Helm, president and CEO, said Dolese wanted a way to keep the company independent and have a positive impact on his employees and community. The result? The company donated all of its non-voting stock, valued at roughly $210 million at the time, to university foundations at Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University (OSU), and the University of Oklahoma (OU). 

If the company was profitable, it would then buy back stock each year with the goal of eventually making the company employee owned. “It was a way for him to transfer the value of the business to non-profit,” Helm explained, noting that the company works with foundations at each school with the goal of increasing the number of engineering graduates.

Impacting Education
The gift was rolled out privately in 2010, and a public announcement was made in 2013. From the outset, the intent was student-focused. “One of the things we really focused on was to get the money of hands of students through scholarships,” Helm said. “Once they built out some real good scholarship programs, based on merit and need, they really started looking at retaining and mentoring students, so it’s morphed over time.”

In the decade since the announcement, the three universities have been able to quantify the donation’s impact. Blair Atkinson, president of the Foundation for Engineering at OSU, describes it as a “transformational gift.” “You’re making a generational impact,” she said while addressing a group of Dolese employees. “At OSU, we call that the Dolese Effect.”

University data underscores the significance of that effect. Kansas State has graduated more than 100 additional engineers each year since receiving the gift. At OU, the number of engineering graduates has nearly doubled. And, at OSU, the number undergraduate engineering degrees awarded each year has more than doubled since 2012. In addition, funds have been used to create programs for tutoring, mentoring, first-year instruction, summer camps, research work, and more.

“All the universities have developed some kind of concept where they bring incoming freshmen, generally from underserved situations where their math may be lacking, for a one-month highly intensive math curriculum,” said Kermit Frank, vice president, communications and community relations. “This year, they grew the program to 55 students.”

OSU senior Della Thomas shared with Dolese employees how the scholarship allowed her to pursue educational enrichment inside and outside the classroom. She participated in concrete research, engineering societies, and concrete competition teams. “My time at OSU has been heavily influenced by Dolese,” she said. “The support they have offered to create these opportunities is incredible for me and my peers at OSU.”

Effecting Dolese
While hundreds, if not thousands, of students have been positively impacted by the gift, Dolese Bros. is also finding beneficial results. Helm said today’s employees want to know what the company is doing for society. They take pride in seeing how their work helps these students and society as a whole. In addition to fostering a sense of pride among employees, the relationship with the foundations has yielded insights into the importance of employee development.

“When I interact with students, they are like sponges,” Helm said. “One of the questions they’ll ask is, ‘If I come work for your company, how are you going to help me develop as a person and as a leader?’ When you see that, you realize you’d better be investing in your employees as well so we’re pretty intense in our leadership development programs.”

Looking to the Future
As he talks about the donation with local chambers and business groups, Helm said that it seems there isn’t enough discussion about workforce development. 

“We’re short engineers and we’ve been so quiet about it,” he said. One of the reasons the company is sharing the success of the Dolese donation is to encourage other businesses to match funds and help underwrite scholarships. “They can call it a scholarship in the name of someone else,” he said. “Frankly, we don’t care. We just want to graduate more engineers. If this becomes a catalyst for an even greater expansion of their support, that would be outstanding.”

Therese Dunphy has covered the aggregates industry for nearly 30 years, while also serving multiple roles as a public official. As the owner of Stone Age Communications, she provides communications consulting services to help aggregate producers build stronger relationships within the communities they serve. She can be reached at [email protected].

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