Dobkins donate $2M for library's Jack E. and Betty O. Prince Forum

Before Eric Dobkin proposed to his college sweetheart, Barbara Berman, in 1964, he obtained her parents' consent. And, hours after she said yes, he made the short drive to Williamstown, W.Va., to share the good news with his second family: Marietta College professor Jack Prince and his wife Betty.

"He was such a father figure to me. If you had something you really needed to talk to someone about he was the guy you would go to. This was one of those moments that I wanted to share with Jack and Betty."

It has been more than two decades since Dr. Jack E. Prince's engaging personality and ear for listening guided students at Marietta College. His personal approach is why former students, including some of Marietta College's most successful alumni, still use words such as iconic, mentor and friend when describing Jack. A professor at Marietta for 31 years (1954-85), Jack was known as an exceptional instructor in the College's largest department. And he became a counselor to many students.

It is that love and respect that spurred Eric '64 and Barbara Dobkin '65 to donate $2 million to the College to support the creation of the Jack E. and Betty O. Prince Forum in the new Marietta Library, which is scheduled to open in January 2009.

"It's very overwhelming when you think about the size of the gift and that it was done in honor of Betty and me. But it really validates our strategy of staying in one place for a long period of time and building up strong, memorable relationships," Jack said.

He made personal connections in the classroom and also as the faculty advisor to Student Senate and Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society.

In 1955, soon after he arrived, Jack succeeded Dr. Melvin W. Ecke as the program director for the floundering Evening School. He developed and marketed a much more successful venture by expanding course offerings that were both academic and practical. Jack placed a great deal of emphasis on instruction that was useful for employees of area industry and enrollment of non-traditional students doubled in a short time. Total enrollment in the program peaked at 1,514 in 1969-70, when it moved into the newly opened and air-conditioned Thomas Hall. After 15 years of teaching and administering, he resigned from the Evening School and returned to full-time faculty status.

Jack continued to teach for another 15 years alongside other legends such as Dr. Wen-yu Cheng and Dr. Bert Glaze in the Department of Economics, Management and Accounting. Throughout his tenure, he always maintained an open-door policy, all day, every day. "Marietta is a small campus and I didn't have set office hours. I tried to be there as much as I could for the students. That's what made Marietta special and what I thought you should do."

That guidance molded Eric Dobkin, who formed a lifelong friendship with his mentor. The gift to the Library is the Dobkins' most recent philanthropic tribute to Prince. In 2001, they established the Jack E. Prince Academic Merit Scholarship, providing an annual award to an entering freshman.

"It's not important to us to have our name on something, and really I'm not someone who has a burning desire to fund a library," Eric said. "But this is important to Marietta College and I have a strong, burning desire to do something for Jack Prince and all he represented to an era of the College. I want people to come back and see Jack's name and Betty's name and remember for many years what they meant to Marietta College."

Marietta College President Jean A. Scott said the Dobkins' long-lasting friendship with the Princes and with their alma mater is inspiring.

"Eric and Barbara Dobkin are an inspiration to all of us at Marietta College," she said. "Their commitment to making a difference at the College with this latest gift reminds us all that the relationships between faculty and students here endure. I'm proud that the Dobkins have expressed confidence in the direction of this project and the College, and have chosen to honor the Princes in this way. This gift allows us to move forward with the construction this summer. Now we are challenged to raise an additional $3 million that will serve as an endowment."