California State University, Long Beach
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In Memoriam: December 2016

Published: December 5, 2016

Lucia Bartholio, Sept. 22, retired staff

David Dowell, the former interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Cal State Long Beach, died Oct. 25 at the age of 65.

Dowell had retired in June after 37 years of service. He served as interim provost from July 2013 until his retirement. Over the course of his career he held a variety of positions on campus, including professor of psychology, department chair, dean, director of strategic planning and a vice provost.

President Jane Close Conoley said in a statement to the university that Dowell was a “champion and advocate for students.”

“Many of the national accolades we received for growth in graduation and retention rates and reducing opportunity gaps can be attributed to his leadership and tireless efforts to improve student outcomes,” Conoley said.

Dowell earned a degree in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University in 1973, before earning his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Tennessee.

He was instrumental in launching CSULB’s Highly Valued Degree Initiative to increase college retention and completion rates overall, with a focus on underrepresented students. Dowell led a team in 2005 to Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, a historically black institution, as part of a national study of campuses serving underrepresented students.

Calling him “the father of student success at Cal State Long Beach,” Lynn Mahoney, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, who worked with Dowell for more than six years at CSULB, said he was known across the country as an innovator, and he gave talks to campuses in the United States and throughout the world.

“There was nothing Cal State Long Beach accomplished that didn’t have Dave’s fingerprints on it,” Mahoney said. “He was a nationally known expert on student success and became even more nationally renowned because he demonstrated he could do it. He demonstrated it can be done.”

Dowell said he was proud that CSULB graduation rates didn’t fall during the Great Recession and the California budget crisis that saw $1 billion in public funding cut from Cal State University system during what he described as the worst fiscal crisis in the history of California higher education.

He was a key part of the Long Beach College Promise, which provides academically eligible Long Beach Unified School District graduates with guaranteed admission to Cal State Long Beach. Local graduates who choose to study at Long Beach City College can take a year’s worth of classes without having to pay tuition.

Dowell championed learning abroad and he spearheaded a campus digital transformation in the areas of student advising, scheduling of classes and managing enrollment.

He oversaw the implementation of electronic advising, which uses analytics to help campus advisers identify students who need assistance in designing their coursework. Using program software, advisers can see the real-time academic performance of students, which helps them steer students to alternative courses of study, if they are struggling in class.

A well-rounded individual, Dowell enjoyed jazz and the outdoors. He was a scuba diver and an avid cyclist. Dowell is survived by his wife, Nancy, and daughters Maria, Laura and Julia.

Margaret Tally, May 29, retired staff

Bill Vendl, a former associate athletic director at CSULB, passed away on Oct. 30. He was 84.

Vendl lived a full life. In addition to being an Olympian, he was a decorated officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and the Reserves, and his career in campus recreation spanned the public sector as well as institutions of higher education. Also, he served as a college professor and coach, and was an accomplished author and singer. In addition, he spent time working as a Hollywood stuntman, working on two major hit films of the 1960s—“How the West Was Won” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

Vendl began his career in sports as a youth in Cicero, Ill., earning 10 high school varsity letters in swimming, soccer and track. He eventually went on to be awarded All-State and All-American honors in swimming while at Morton High School and Morton College in Cicero.

He earned a swimming scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University and following graduation joined the United States Coast Guard. His commanding officer entered him into a competition where he competed in swimming, shooting, and cross-country running—three of the five events in the modern pentathlon.

His performance allowed him to participate in the modern pentathlon at the Olympic Training Center and in 1956 he was part of the USA modern pentathlon team that traveled to Melbourne, Australia for the Summer Olympics. Though he wasn’t part of the three-man team that went on to claim the silver medal, it did, however, kick off his career in the modern pentathlon that included qualifying for the 1960 Olympic Games, competing for a stint on the European Modern Pentathlon Circuit, appearing for six consecutive years in the international rankings, and setting 11 world, international and national records. All of this culminated with his induction into the International Modern Pentathlon Hall of Fame in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1975.

After competing, Vendl had a successful career as a coach and athletic director. While with the Chicago Park District, he served as a physical education teacher and coach. His impressive 81-7 meet record saw his teams win a state championship and two of his swimmers qualified for the Olympics under his tutelage.

Vendl’s 31-year career as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and the Reserves was filled with distinction, being decorated with 22 medals and awards before retiring in 1984 as a Senior Captain.

Vendl earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and geography from Eastern Kentucky University, a master’s degree in physical education from George Williams College (cum laude), and an Ed.D. in educational administration from Northern Illinois University.

While his career in intramural-recreational sports stretches back to 1954, Vendl’s first stint working on a college campus was in 1964 when he joined the physical education faculty at the University of Chicago, where for the next 13 years he served in many roles.

In the fall of 1977, he became the Director of Intramural and Recreational Sports at CSULB, being responsible for the intramural program, athletic facilities, and well as serving as advisor to the cheer and dance team.

Joining the intramural and recreation national organization NIRSA in 1966, Vendl was an active member for 50 years, frequently chairing or serving on dozens of committees. He served as president of NIRSA in 1981–82.

He was a lead author for numerous articles in NIRSA’s Recreational Sports Journal (formerly the NIRSA Journal), and presented more than 30 times at various local, state, regional and annual NIRSA conferences.

In 1990, he was awarded with NIRSA’s Honor Award, the association’s highest distinction. In the announcement, he was cited for contributions that “have been a stabilizing influence as well as a growth factor in the continuing development of our association.” Vendl was most recently able to join the NIRSA family at its 2013 NIRSA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, where he was honored as a Legacy Member whose contributions to the field of collegiate recreation have been integral to its legacy.

Vendl is survived by his wife Janice; sons Bill and David Vendl; Mike Uraine; daughter Suzanne Vendl and Kenny Jarvis, and granddaughter Kaitlyn Jarvis; and daughter Rhonda Weimmeister.