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2015 Men of the Year Honoree: Bernie Dana

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When Bernie Dana became chairman of Evangel University’s business department, traditional student enrollment had declined by 28 percent the past five years. Now, it shows drastic signs of improvement.

Since earning the role in March 2011, Dana has led the department to improve enrollment of traditional students by 23 percent, add new degree programs and academic initiatives, and create and meet fundraising goals.

“I try to influence the success of the students I advise and teach by caring about them personally, encouraging rational thinking and helping them to see the impact of their choices,” says Dana, who joined the Evangel business department in August 2001 as a professor of management, marketing and leadership courses.

“I try to influence the success of my department faculty and staff by setting high expectations, providing support and being their advocate when needed.”

Under Dana’s tutelage, the department launched a nonprofit business and social enterprise major. One of just a handful of business-based nonprofit majors in the United States, according to Dana, the program has become his department’s third-largest business major. Among improvements, the department also added an online program for adult students to complete their bachelor’s degree in management, as well as a student advisory council to solicit feedback on proposed changes.

The end goal, Dana says, is to send Evangel students into the community willing and prepared.

“My proudest accomplishment is watching our Evangel business graduates thrive in the marketplace with an understanding of how to integrate their values and faith with their living and work, and then to see them generously give back to make sure that new students can have similar academic and faith-building experience,” he says.

In the fundraising arena, Dana and crew launched a campaign to work with community partners, asking them to raise $25,000 each over five years.

With the backing of 26 legacy partners, the business department has raised $998,000, or 85 percent of its goal, so far.

Dana’s department also received a $500,000 commitment to establish an endowed administrative chair for business excellence, which gives investment earnings to faculty and program development. Another $150,000 pledge from a foundation created the Vetter Center for Social Enterprise, which provides program and internship support for the department’s nonprofit business and social enterprise major.

“I try to influence the success of those with authority over me by identifying and exploring opportunities for improvement and providing data-based proposals for change,” Dana says.

Prior to joining Evangel, Dana spent 28 years as a corporate executive and consultant, primarily in the health care industry. After serving in the U.S. Army, he held a variety of executive positions, including as president and CEO of Retirement Centers of America Inc. in Cleveland, Tenn., and executive vice president and director of administrative support services for Omaha, Neb.-based Vetter Holding Inc. and its 33 subsidiary corporations. The Evangel business administration graduate gave back to his alma mater by serving on its board of trustees for 16 years.


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