In Praise of Dave Isbell

Dave Isbell

It’s impossible to understate the positive impact that Dave Isbell has had on the Michigan State University Alumni Family in over a decade of service to the alumni team.

John Hill brilliantly brought Dave into the fold at the height of the last great recession. Dave’s contributions helped hundreds of Spartans reinvent themselves, rebuilding self-confidence and creating rewarding careers. Many returned the favor, becoming members of the Association and ultimately donors to the institution.

Today, universities where alumni relations is still valued nearly all have career services teams, similar to what John and Dave pioneered at MSU. As we navigate the hard economic realities of the present day, that prescience is again bringing alumni home to their institutions to discover how to best survive and thrive.

Dave’s passion for comics lead us to invite Geoff Johns to serve as Homecoming Grand Marshall. His love for music and deep spiritual faith gave his countenance a mixture of fun and inner peace that always made me smile. And Dave’s thoughtful approach to ideation enriched the process which became the “MSUAA 2020 Strategic Plan”.

When Dave came to me to share his desire to earn a masters in Social Work with a focus on Family Counseling, I supported it. It may seem counter-intuitive to encourage a stellar employee to pursue a path that would ultimately lead him to leave the team.

But Dave, himself, reminded me that this is how the best teams are sustained. Create an environment where an individual can grow, make a difference and feel valued. Even as the best of the best outgrow their current reality, word will spread that when you throw in with this group, you can achieve and advance, even if that advancement means a different organization that is a better fit for the person you are becoming.

Word spreads about corporate culture. Provide an enriching work environment and you will attract high caliber co-workers who will challenge convention and raise the bar. That is the essential formula for sustainability in an ever changing world.

Perhaps what I admired most about Dave was his love for Dora and his family. It’s a story the eyes tell whenever they look at one another and lives in the smiles that break out on young faces whenever dad walks in the front door.

Dave has always had his priorities in the right place. That confidence radiated outward into our alumni community and helped us take new strides toward the service excellence that was always at the center of our consciousness.