September 1, 2019
I recently attended a retirement celebration for my good friend Dominic Dottavio and his very supportive wife Lisette. For the past 11 years, he has been the President of Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. I met the Dottavios when they first arrived at Tarleton through a mutual friend, John Adams, the inventor of the decongestant drug Mucinex and founder of Rough Creek Lodge. John was a graduate of Heidelberg University, a private university in Tiffin, Ohio. Dominic was the President of Heidelberg prior to accepting the position at Tarleton. When I first met Dominic, I thought to myself, “What in the world is the college doing bringing a Yankee to Texas to head up an agricultural school that is part of the Texas A&M system?”
Over the past 11 years, I watched the university grow from a sleepy small-town college to one of the most positive places I have been around. Over his 11 years at Tarleton, my Yankee friend was able to almost double the enrollment and graduation rate, open 35 new academic programs and several new campuses and create a pedestrian mall on the main campus. Under Dominic’s command, Tarleton has the highest graduation rate of the Texas A&M system and the lowest cost per student! Donations have increased 78% and the endowment is up 81%! He also reinstated the Texan Corps of Cadets (ROTC Program) and renewed focus on Tarleton’s core values — tradition, integrity, civility, leadership, excellence and service, which are similar to the King Aerospace Cornerstone Principles. Dominic’s greatest attribute, in my opinion, is his genuine and sincere ability to bond with all people. I have never seen so many educators and students with tears in their eyes as I saw at his retirement celebration. Dominic has taught me, through observation, the importance embracing those around you.
One of the speakers who proposed a toast to Dominic and Lissette was Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan, a fourth generation Texan. He shared how excited Fort Worth is to have a newly opened Tarleton campus. Jungus went on to say that Dominic, although not a Texan, has lived and demonstrated true Texas values such as those passed down from his father to him, from his grandfather to his father, and from his great grandfather to his grandfather. Hearing this reminded me of what it means to be a Texan (or simply a good human being), as my parents had taught me.
Here are three-character traits of what, in my opinion, it means to be a Texan:
Never lie — then you’ll never have to worry about what you said.
Always keep your word — your word is your bond.
Make it better — wherever you pass, whatever you do, make things better.
There is no doubt that my now dear Yankee friend demonstrated those character traits and can now be called a Texan. I guess that saying “Being a Texan is a state of mind” must be right. May there be more Texans and we all strive to live those traits.
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.