MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University selects a member of its alumni each year to honor with the Alumni Award of Excellence. Past recipients have included esteemed members of the business community, musicians, politicians and more. This year WOU recognizes an alumnus, Ron DeVolder, who takes pride in being involved with the university in a variety of ways, from the WOU Foundation to a regular attendee of events.
Ron DeVolder, ’68, exemplifies how a Western Oregon University alum can directly make a positive impact on the students and the university. However, DeVolder did not graduate from Western with the intention of becoming involved with the school. In fact, the thought of returning to Monmouth never crossed his mind when he graduated with training to become a biology teacher.
After graduation he joined the U.S. Army and served on active duty for four years. Upon returning home, DeVolder got a job in the parts department at the Roberts Motor Company Kenworth truck dealership in Eugene. DeVolder’s intelligence, charisma and leadership enabled him to work his way from the parts department to company president. Now, just over 40 years since he graduated from WOU, DeVolder has realized the importance and benefits to being involved with the university, and he encourages other students to get involved before they leave campus.
It was almost by accident that DeVolder became reacquainted with WOU. Years after graduation, some of his friends, who were involved in the Wolfpack Athletic Club, invited him to a WOU barbeque at their home. Students were also in attendance and DeVolder enjoyed talking with them and learning about their achievements and advancements at Western. His friends suggested that he become involved in the Wolfpack board of directors. He didn’t quite know what it entailed, but it sounded challenging to him.
“It was interesting how any small amount of good you did was so overwhelmingly received with positive feedback; it wasn’t like work at all. Everything I did just seemed to click. It was appreciated by students which made me feel good,” said DeVolder.
The university president had also encouraged DeVolder to do more. This invitation, coupled with the realization that if Western had not been there for DeVolder as a student, he wouldn’t have been able to be successful, made him want to become more involved. The notion of giving back to Western became very important to him.
In 1996, DeVolder joined the WOU Foundation Board of Directors and he has remained involved with the Foundation ever since. He has held the position of treasurer and in December 2008 he transitioned from chair of the Foundation to serving as past chair.
DeVolder has found the Foundation to be a good fit for him. “There you can actually cause money to move into student’s hands. That was my biggest difficulty when I was a student, getting financial help. Helping to round up and manage funds and getting funds into the student’s hands helps me achieve my goal of giving back.”
He sees himself staying involved in the years to come. “This university is growing and it will continue to do so. We are now at a place where we have an administration that knows how to administer in addition to knowing how to teach. That’s a very good feeling,” he said.
One of his main goals now is to make sure our current graduates become involved alumni before they cross the graduation stage. “We must encourage students to stay involved after graduation. Graduates should never spiritually leave this place. There is no reason for them to do so. In fact, both the graduate and the university are best served when we all stay connected as a community.”
Vice President for University Advancement Paul Moredock is thankful to have someone like DeVolder dedicated and supportive of the university. "Ron DeVolder is very deserving of this award. He is passionate about his alma mater, focused on helping students receive financial assistance, and has the vision to help Western Oregon University become the very best university in our system. It is an honor to work with him."
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