Like so many of Don Mocker’s colleagues and friends, John Lemberger remembers one of his many oft-shared axioms.
“My favorite Mocker quote, and it took me a while to understand it, was “A problem delayed is half solved,” said Lemberger, professor in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services (COEHS). “He understood the importance of time as a part of any solution.”
There have been many reflections on Mocker’s long, distinguished academic career and service after the former UW Oshkosh provost’s and dean’s passing at age 78 in Missouri on Aug. 24.
A memorial service was held for Donald W. Mocker, Ph.D., in Overland Park, Kansas on Sept. 4, and, at the request of his family, colleagues and friends were asked to direct any gifts to the Faculty Development Fund at the School of Education, University of Missouri Kansas City or the Technology Fund in the UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services.
Mocker attended Missouri Valley College and University of Missouri-Columbia before receiving his EdD from SUNY Albany. He had a full career at University of Missouri-Kansas City as a professor and dean before coming to UW Oshkosh in 1994 to serve as dean of the College of Education and Human Services. He served in that role until his retirement to Overland Park, KS in 1999.
Mocker was brought back to Oshkosh by Chancellor Richard Wells in 2000 to serve as interim provost and vice chancellor after Vicki Lord Larson left the position to pursue other professional opportunities. Mocker was then replaced by the new, permanent UW Oshkosh Provost Keith Miller.
A few of the many UW Oshkosh faculty members who worked alongside Mocker in his University leadership roles shared some memories of his lifelong commitment to faculty and his compassion for students and the academic mission of the institution. Here are some of their reflections:
Michael Ford, professor, Literacy and Language, COEHS
“When Don Mocker spoke to a College of Education and Human Services audience, he would often start by saying something like ‘People ask me how my job is… I tell them ‘fantastic’ because I am working with the greatest group of faculty members.’ Don Mocker loved his faculty, perhaps because he came from a Division One research institution where the faculty loads were minimal but the complaints were not. Don found it refreshing to be on a campus where the reverse was true. Don advocated for his faculty. My favorite moment was when a local legislator marched into his office to force his ‘phonics-first-and-only’ philosophy on our department’s reading classes. Not knowing Don was a nationally published and recognized expert on literacy, Dean Mocker politely showed him the door.
“Don had a great dry wit. When we were about to adopt our two sons from Russia, Don asked me, ‘How old are they?’ I told him, ‘Seven.’ He quickly responded, ‘You know if they were twelve, they could mow your lawn.’ Don also had a generous, kind spirit. One day I received a box from Overland Park, Kansas where Don had returned to retire. It was filled with old Boy Scout handbooks and memorabilia that Don had found among personal items after his brother had died. Remembering my long involvement with Scouting, he sent them to me knowing that I would appreciate their value… Compassionate and competent, many of us were so fortunate to learn from his leadership.”
Margaret Olson, faculty emeritus, Counselor Education, COEHS
“Don’s leadership during my tenure as a department chair in the COEHS enabled our program to thrive in spite of several difficult periods. His wisdom, compassion and problem-solving qualities were always evident; he was completely congruent and consistent. He led the administrative council meetings efficiently; they started and ended on time, and we learned to straighten our chairs before we left! Don was respectful of students and faculty and able to resolve difficult situations with consideration for all sides of an issue. I continued to seek his advice after his retirement, as his interest in and concern for UW Oshkosh continued long after his year as interim provost.”
Michelina Manzi, professor, Literacy and Language, COEHS
“I know this was a favorite saying of Don’s: ‘We live in deeds, not years’ (poet Philip James Bailey). He had good deeds in each year that far exceeded the number of days within a year. In retirement, he was very proud of the mentoring and tutoring he did with urban youth in Kansas City. He tutored in literacy and academic subjects, growing close to the youth with whom he worked. When he was here as dean of COEHS, he advocated for and loved the faculty. He said they made his world a happy place. I recall during his hiring process that he said, before the faculty, that he would stand on his deeds and would be measured by this as dean should he be hired, that he would not request tenure, and, should he not measure up, we could show him the way out. He offered us six years (1993-1999) of service as our dean. Needless to say, we were sad to see him leave. He measured up!… He was not here a long time as dean–he did not believe in lifetime terms as dean–and gave us his full support. He knew the role of the dean inside and out and respected the faculty so much.”