October 9, 2012
Helping people succeed: the Donald G. Dressler Memorial Scholarship
Compassionate, generous, kind, empathetic, family man. These words came up frequently as family members reminisced recently about Don Dressler.
Dressler, who graduated from Kansas State University in 1960 with a degree in civil engineering, died suddenly Oct. 15, 2010.
“As we grappled with his death, we tried to come up with a way for us to find comfort and solace that reflected our family’s values and would live on in his name,” said Darrin Dressler, Don Dressler's son.
The family found that comfort by establishing an endowed scholarship to honor their father and husband.
“This scholarship feels like such a good idea because it will profoundly touch the lives of the recipients,” Darrin Dressler said. “It represents how he lived his life, how he treated other people and how he wanted to help people succeed.”
The Donald G. Dressler Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to students in the department of civil engineering, with preference to first-generation college students. Don Dressler, who grew up in Iola, was the first in his family to go to college and he dreamed of playing basketball for K-State. He first went to Pittsburg State on a basketball scholarship, but realized the sport wasn't going to be his future. He transferred to K-State and turned his focus to engineering.
After graduation, his engineering career began with U.S. Steel in Gary, Ind. The next 15 years he worked for several companies in various industries in Indiana, Missouri, Delaware, Pennsylvania and California. In 1973 he returned to Kansas and in 1975 established his own company, Dressler Consulting Engineers Inc.
His wife, Lou Krause Dressler, said her husband didn’t like talking about what would happen after he died. While he wanted to be cremated, Lou Dressler said he also wanted to have something that said, ‘Don Dressler was here.’
“We were working on his obituary and considering foundations for memorial contributions,” Lou said. “Holly, Don’s daughter-in-law, recommended a scholarship for K-State. He absolutely loved K-State and so we all thought that was a great idea. When we found out we could have a scholarship that lasted in perpetuity with his name on it we thought, 'Wow, that just answers our question completely.' It's something that says he was here and the fact that he’d be helping other people along the way — that would be more important to him than having his name remembered.”
Family members’ memories of Don Dressler are full of stories of his kindness and compassion toward others.
“I remember a story about Dad,” Darrin Dressler said. “It was a really hot summer day and the trash guys were going down the street. He told me to go tell those guys he wanted to talk to them, so I did. They wondered what they were in trouble for because I’m sure that all they ever heard was complaints. They came up to the house and my dad just asked them if they wanted a cold beer. It didn’t matter what someone’s position was in life — it could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or it could be the person working the front desk of the Embassy Suites — Dad was going to try to help them out anyway he could. He treated everyone with the same respect, dignity and generosity of spirit.”
“When Dad was working for a business before he started his own firm, he was a trailblazer,” said, Kristin Pierson, Don Dressler's daighter. “Even though it was contrary to corporate culture at the time, he insisted women in his department be treated as equals and with respect. He caught a lot of grief for it back in the day, but he always saw women as equals in every aspect of his life and his business.”
“Dad was the compass for the family,” said David Dressler, Don Dressler's son, who said his dad liked to share his love of K-State with his family.
“K-State is cool in a very distinct way. It’s a confidence thing,” David Dressler said. “Dad had a figurine of a muscular wildcat with a clenched fist, rolling up his sleeve. And on his purple shirt it had ‘K-State’ emblazoned across the chest. Dad was a firm believer in purple power.”
“I wish he could have known about this scholarship,” Lou Dressler said. “He would have loved this idea!”
“After seeing what an immense difference a college education can mean to a person, we wanted to pass along this opportunity to someone else,” said Matt Pierson, Don Dressler's son-in-law. “As a family, we wanted to continue the tradition, in a small way, of extending the opportunity for generations to come.”
When asked what she wanted the scholarship recipients to know about her husband, Lou Dressler said, “I’d like them to know what type of person Don was and that being successful includes helping others. Realize that giving back and helping others are very important components of a rewarding and successful life.
“The scholarship sure beats having a tombstone in a cemetery,” Lou Dressler said. “It helps other people, it says he was here and it lasts in perpetuity. It is just so Don.”