Dale Stowell enrolled in Linn-Benton Community College in 1977 after graduating earlier that year from Philomath High School. He never forgot that first college experience.
Although he studied journalism initially at LBCC and English at Portland State University, Stowell ended up in marketing. He became a 24-year member of the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations, attending conferences for community college marketing professionals.
"If I came across someone who worked at LBCC, I always reminded them I was an alum and asked them what was going on," Stowell said.
The connections paid off in 2011, when Stowell helped plan a NCMPR conference in Tacoma and was assigned to greet people at the registration table. He got to talking to Joe Sherlock, LBCC's publication and web manager, and Sherlock mentioned his boss was retiring.
"That weekend, after the conference ended, I started wondering what Joe's boss did, so I went to the LBCC website and looked at the job description," Stowell recalled. "And I thought, wow, that really fits me."
Stowell applied and was named LBCC's executive director of advancement. The job did fit, and has for the past six years, he said.
Recently, however, his wife, Liz, was hired for her dream job as a nurse and lactation consultant at a hospital in Indio, California. Stowell has announced his retirement and his last day will be Feb. 9.
"She made the move here six years ago so I could take my dream job and I am doing the same," he said.
People who would like to wish Stowell well are invited to drop by No Rails Alehouse, 117 First Ave. NE, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for a no-host retirement celebration.
The college is currently in the process of seeking a successor.
In the years following his graduation from LBCC, Stowell experienced a variety of careers. He wrote for both the Lebanon Express and the Albany Democrat-Herald in the mid-1980s, then went on to work as editor of the Woodburn Independent.
He was a regional physician communication manager with Franciscan Health System and a publications and media relations manager for St. Joseph Medical Center, both in Washington.
He was assistant director of college relations at Pierce College from 1994 to 1998, then served as director for another nine years. From there he joined Tacoma Community College, where he was director of marketing, communication and outreach.
Stowell was working for TCC and had just bought a house when the LBCC job came open.
"I decided to apply anyway because I knew that if I was selected for an interview that I would have a full-day experience meeting with current students, faculty and staff — in addition to having a private conversation with the president — at my favorite alma mater," Stowell recalled. "Who gets to do that?"
Stowell said he remembers he "poured out his heart on the cover letter."
"I wanted everyone working at LBCC to know just how much this school had helped me," he said. "A big reason I wanted to come interview was to tell that to everyone and say thank you to them for what they do."
Stowell has spent the past six years serving as the college's spokesman, working with faculty and staff to promote the college and leading LBCC's Foundation in fundraising efforts.
During that time, he said, he had the chance to put in place many of the lessons he had learned as a young student.
"I learned here that influence was more effective than authority in getting things done," he said. "I got to practice those things because I was immediately on the Commuter staff and after one quarter here, I was in a leadership position on the staff.
"I learned that when you have authority, it changes the way people view you, so you need to treat authority with a lot of restraint. You have it when you need it, but it's better to inspire people than scare them. Inspired people are more productive than scared people.
"And I think my understanding of authority made it possible for me to have much better relationships with my bosses because I treated them as regular people rather than authority figures. And if I had to point to things that have made my career successful, many are things that I learned and first got the chance to practice (here)."
During his tenure at LBCC, Stowell said he's been proud to be a part of many accomplishments.
The school's foundation, for instance, gave out a record amount of scholarship funds to students in the last year: $360,000. Invested resources are at a record-high level, as is the college's flexible fund, which allows the foundation to provide support wherever it might be needed most.
Stowell said he's also proud the college passed its $34 million bond measure in 2014 on the first try. "I was really proud of the work done by the LBCC Foundation Board of Trustees, who allocated the money for the campaign and did a large amount of work to make sure it passed."
Stowell said he was honored to have been named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2014, which he said came as a complete surprise. The award prompted a reconnection with Jenny Spiker, who had been Stowell's journalism adviser at LBCC.
It was another opportunity to say thank you, Stowell said. "And the thing that so impressed me about her response is how she focused also on gratitude for the opportunity to have a positive influence as a teacher, and at the same time, be positively influenced by the students," he recalled. "The exchange of messages we had was one of the highlights of receiving that award."
Once he's down south, Stowell said, he plans to spend time on his many hobbies, which include rock and blues guitar, hiking and running, and writing at least one novel, the first chapter of which he's already drafted.
He will continue to pursue community involvement, particularly through Rotary, where he has long been an active member. And he will continue to visit the mid-valley, where his mother still lives.
Stowell insists he has no practical advice for his successor. "Be lucky," as he feels he has been, doesn't really cut it, he said. "I've just ended up in jobs that fit me."
He can, however, encourage people to be grateful, as he also is.
"I find gratitude is important in my life because it keeps me positive and focused on all the good things I have and the way the team here has been able to help others," he said. "We all have good things in our lives if we take the time to reflect on them."