WMU News

1998 Distinguished Alumni named

September 24, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Three prominent representatives of the worlds of baseball and business have been presented with 1998 Distinguished Alumni Awards by the Western Michigan University Alumni Association.

This year's award winners are David Dombrowski of Miami Beach, Fla., executive vice president and general manager of the World Champion Florida Marlins baseball team; James P. Holden of Bloomfield Hills, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Chrysler Corp.; and Thomas L. Reece of New York, president and chief executive officer of Dover Corp.

The three join 102 other men and women who have received the award, the WMU Alumni Association's most prestigious honor, since the program's inception in 1963.

They will be recognized at an Oct. 17 awards dinner held in conjunction with Homecoming. Alumni and friends wishing to attend the dinner may make reservations by calling the association at (616) 387-8777. The dinner costs $30 for alumni association members and $35 for nonmembers.

Dombrowski, who enrolled at WMU in 1975 after transferring from Cornell University following his freshman year, received a bachelor of business administration degree with honors from WMU in 1979. A member of the Lee Honors College, he majored in accounting and general business, which he says was the type of background needed to enter major league baseball.

While doing research for his required honors thesis, Dombrowski interviewed Roland Hemond, then general manager of the Chicago White Sox, for his paper on "The General Manager, The Man in the Middle." A year later Hemond offered him his first job in baseball, that of administrative assistant for the team.

Dombrowski accepted the position, but only after promising his parents that he would complete his degree. He served eight years with the White Sox, moving up through the ranks as assistant director and director of player development, assistant general manager and vice president/baseball operations.

In spring 1986 a change in the White Sox leadership left Dombrowski temporarily without a job. In November of the same year, he was named director of player development for the Montreal Expos. Six months later he was promoted to assistant general manager. Then in 1988 at age 32, he was named general manager of the Expos, becoming the youngest person to hold this top decision-making post in the major leagues.

United Press International named him baseball executive of the year in 1990. But more important, he says, was the Expos being named Organization of the Year twice during his tenure with the club.

In 1991 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was presented to Dombrowski when he was asked to build an expansion franchise from the ground up as the general manager and executive vice president of the Florida Marlins.

The Florida Marlins became the first-ever expansion team to improve its record in each of its first five seasons. In its 1993 inaugural season, the team finished sixth in the National League East. Four seasons later the Marlins were the 1997 World Champions and the headlines of a Miami newspaper read: "Architect of a champion -- Dave Dombrowski made the moves; his team made history."

Dombrowski makes his home in Miami Beach with his wife, former sports broadcaster Karie Ross, and their six-month-old daughter.

Holden, a political science major, received a bachelor of science degree from WMU in 1973 and launched his career in the auto industry shortly after. The 25 years he has spent in that industry since then has included 17 years with the Chrysler Corp.

Immediately after graduating from WMU, Holden accepted a position as systems analyst with Ford Motor Co. He spent the next eight years with the automaker.

In 1981 he accepted the position of fleet development manager-truck operations at the Chrysler Corp. One year later he was named regional sales manager for the company's truck operations. This was the first of what would be a series of promotions with the Detroit-based auto manufacturer.

Holden soon moved to Houston as assistant zone sales manager. He was promoted again after only two years and moved to California as general marketing manager for Chrysler/Plymouth. One year later Holden was back in the Midwest serving as zone sales manager and headquartered in Minneapolis.

Three more promotions followed, including advertising manager for Dodge and director of sales operation planning. Then in 1990 Holden was named general manager for the corporation's Chrysler/Plymouth Division. The same year he also earned a master's in business administration degree from Michigan State University.

The promotions continued, with Holden being named vice president for corporate personnel in 1993 and vice president for quality, capacity and process management in 1994.

Two years later he was appointed to his current post of executive vice president-sales and marketing.

One of only six executive vice presidents at Chrysler, he directs all of the automaker's sales, fleet and marketing organizations in the United States, Mexico and Canada, including the Mopar parts operations.

Earlier this year as Chrysler began to create the corporate structure that will lead it into the 21st century, Holden was given the additional responsibilities of overseeing the company's communications, Chrysler de Mexico and minivan platform operations. He also is one of the eight Chrysler representatives on the 18-member Management Board for DaimlerChrysler AG.

Holden met his wife, Patti Trudel, who also graduated from the University in 1973, while an undergraduate. The couple has been married for 24 years.

Reece, who received a bachelor of arts degree from WMU in 1964, is president and chief executive officer of Dover Corp., a highly diversified manufacturer with annual sales in excess of $4.5 billion.

At WMU he majored in biology and earned a teaching certificate. After graduation he returned to his hometown of Vicksburg, Mich., to teach high school. His business career began a year later, when the Kalamazoo-based Ronningen-Petter Co., a manufacturer of industrial liquid filtration equipment, hired him as office manager and advertising manager.

Reese, who had worked part time for the firm while attending college, was elevated to the position of marketing manager after only two years. In 1968 the company was acquired by Dover Corp., and in 1971, at the age of 28, Reece became Ronningen-Petter's president.

Seven years later he assumed the presidency of Dover's De-Sta-Co Division, which is headquartered in suburban Detroit. De-Sta-Co is the world's leading manufacturer of toggle action work holding clamps and clamping systems, as well as the leading supplier of precision reed values. In addition to his duties as president, Reece also was co-managing partner of the division's wholly-owned German subsidiary in Frankfurt.

In 1983 he was named president of Dover's Norris Division, which is located in Tulsa, Okla., and manufactures a broad range of oil and gas production equipment. At the time, Norris was the second largest of Dover's 18 divisions.

Shortly after assuming that presidency, he divided Norris into five separate stand-alone businesses,

each with its own president. In 1985 these five companies formed the nucleus of a newly created wholly-owned independent subsidiary, Dover Resources Inc., with Reece as president and CEO.

During his eight years with Dover Resources, the company grew to 14 stand-alone businesses with combined sales of more than $500 million each year.

In 1993 Reece was elected to the newly created position of president and chief operating officer of Dover Corp. One year later he was elected chief executive officer, becoming only the fourth person to have held this position.

Reece and his high school and college classmate, Sandra Miller, were married after their junior year at WMU.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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