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Mike Dolan '75, a WPI trustee, is taking a leadership role in building a culture of annual giving at WPI, especially among the university's youngest alumni.
Mike Dolan '75 knows how to solve complex problems. Dolan has built a distinguished 30-year career by doing just that in almost every aspect of the oil industry—from design and manufacturing, to sales, marketing, and management all over the world.
Dolan, a WPI trustee, is now taking a leadership role in solving an important problem at WPI—building a culture of annual giving, especially among WPI's youngest alumni. Currently, 16 percent of alumni give to the WPI Annual Fund. At other technical schools, the annual giving participation rate among alumni is 40 percent. Now consider that 40 percent of WPI's alumni population graduated in the past 20 years. However, that group donated $105,900 in fiscal year 2008-09, representing only 5 percent of the $2.17 million Annual Fund total.
To address this issue, Dolan is challenging alumni from the last 20 years (1990-2009) to support the WPI Annual Fund at a modest level. He is matching (50 cents on the dollar) gifts of $100 or more to the Annual Fund through June 30, 2010. With this matching challenge, alumni will have an even greater impact on WPI with their gifts. Dolan recognizes that support from alumni is critical to advancing WPI's innovative project-based curriculum, which he credits as the foundation for his own success.
"When I graduated from high school, I was a blue-collar kid from a blue-collar town, and I wanted to see the world. I was able to do that—to play in the big leagues of engineering and to see the whole world," says Dolan, who has lived in a variety places throughout his career, including Germany, Belgium, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. "I look back at my four years at WPI as the great enabler of all of that."
Dolan had already decided to pursue an engineering degree when he graduated from high school. He applied to several universities, but felt most comfortable at WPI. In addition, Dolan stresses that WPI made it possible for him to attend. His gratitude for the scholarship support he received, as well as a desire to remind other alumni of the generous contributors who made their WPI education possible, has fueled his challenge gift to the Annual Fund.
"I have a sense of obligation to pay back to the next generation what was so generously given to me," Dolan says. He hopes this matching challenge will encourage his fellow alumni to fulfill their obligation to support WPI with annual gifts. "When I was a WPI student, there were people 20 or 30 years ahead of me who made contributions to building the buildings and hire the faculty that make WPI such a great place to learn."
After earning a BS in chemical engineering, Dolan began his career as a technical service engineer in research and development at Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, Ill., where he also served as a technical advisor on new refinery oil start-ups outside the United States. In 1980, he joined Mobil Research and Development Corporation in Paulsboro, N.J., where he worked in the research labs and was promoted to a variety of research, planning, and technical service positions. During his tenure at Mobil, Dolan served as technical manager at the company's refinery in Adelaide, Australia, managed the chemical section of Mobil's central engineering company, and progressed through a variety of strategic planning and business management positions in the aromatics, olefins, and polyethylene businesses. He became Mobil's vice president and general manager for petrochemicals in the Americas in 1998.
Following the merger of Exxon and Mobil in 1999, Dolan became the Middle East and Africa regional director of ExxonMobil Chemical. In 2001, he moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he served as executive vice president for ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Saudi Arabia. He returned to the United States in September 2003 and served as deputy to the president of ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Company until August 2004, when he was appointed executive vice president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company. He currently serves as president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company and vice president of ExxonMobil Corporation.
Throughout his career, Dolan has relied on his WPI education. He earned an MBA, but adds that his graduate business education was "nowhere near as important as what I learned at WPI. Ours is a very technical business." While the WPI Plan was still in its infancy when he was a student, Dolan says the emphasis on project and interactive work prepared him for working in culturally and professionally diverse settings. Noting the development of the Plan over the last 30 years and the WPI graduates ExxonMobil continues to recruit into its ranks, he adds, "Today, of course, no one does a better job of this than WPI."
"If you want to do the big things in engineering, it's global, and you don't get a better preparation for it than you do here."
Dolan describes WPI as "the great enabler" in his life, an education that opened doors to opportunities that have led to success and fulfillment. He hopes more of his fellow alumni come to recognize WPI as the great enabler of their lives, as well as their responsibility to contribute to WPI and support the next generation of students.
"Providing engineering and technical degrees is expensive, but important—for individuals, but also for the world," Dolan says. "Those are the people who solve the problems in the world—engineers and scientists."
Take the Dolan Challenge and make your gift today: wpi.edu/+giving
June 1, 2009