David Rozelle: The Mentor You Hope to Meet in College

RoselleIn this piece, David Rozelle, M.S.A.’75, shares with us reminiscences from his 38 years of teaching at WMU. He served as associate professor of accountancy and faculty advisor for the international honor organization Beta Alpha Psi, receiving two University-wide Teaching Excellence Awards, the University Distinguished Service Award, the Interfraternity-Panhellenic Council Teaching Excellence Award, the MACPS Outstanding Educator Award, and two Beta Alpha Psi Faculty Advisor of the Year Awards. He received the Haworth College of Business Outstanding Service Award at Homecoming on October 13.

And he did it while (sometimes) wearing a purple bow tie.

“There have been remarks about my tie. I wore it the first day of class once. A student, years later, told me, he thought, ‘What can I learn from some dork with a purple bow tie?’ This same student later gave his son my first name as his son’s middle name. I guess both of us learned something about first impressions.”

Rozelle found that there are many things to learn at WMU.

“I learned about the strength of the college, the strength of the department, and the strength of Beta Alpha Psi. In all three cases, there is a tradition of excellence and professionalism that students discover, just as I did when I was an M.S.A. student at the college back in the medieval era.

The M.S.A. was my third degree, after two degrees in history and a failed attempt to become a Ph.D. in history. I had taken many economics courses in my long career as a student. When I say long career, I led off with a nine-year journey to a bachelor’s degree. I am told that it isn’t a world record, but it’s up there. It was nearly impossible to find a job in the liberal arts in the early 70s. I looked for something where I could make a living, and I did this with great regret, because it seemed that I was fated to leave the university environment. You see, I fell in love with college—so much energy, so much intelligence and so much conviction that one could change the world for the better.” 

Ultimately, Rozelle realized his aspiration to remain on a college campus, spending 50 years of his life pursuing his education and inspiring his WMU students. 

“When I came to the Department of Accountancy, there were just over 1,000 accounting majors. The department needed teachers, unlike my former discipline, history, where teachers were being laid off across the country.

I was in the right place at the right time.

Not long after I began teaching in the business college, I became faculty advisor for Beta Alpha Psi after my colleague became the national president. I was anxious to do it, but I had to become a member first. Beta was one of the best things that ever happened to me. This organization would become the center of my career at WMU. The hundreds of students I met through the organization are my network. Sometimes they were the bane of my existence, and other times they were the joy of my life. 

I went from tossing and turning at night, worrying that the members would disappoint themselves by falling short of one of their goals to having years when everything ticked along like clockwork.”

Despite the sleepless nights, Beta Alpha Psi achieved Superior Status in 23 out of the 25 years Rozelle was chapter advisor. And for Rozelle, the joys have outweighed the sleepless night (usually!) throughout his career.

“I have many great memories. I recall attending a wedding of a former Beta Alpha Psi student on an island off the coast of France. I watched members of my network run on a 200-mile course in Northern California as part of a relay team to raise awareness for organ donation. I have learned that that one of our graduates is CFO at Dell, another is a Ph.D. in the accounting department at Central Florida University, and dozens are in partner and leadership roles at all the public accounting firms. The best days were always just before the students left—graduation. 

Granted, if you ask a faculty member if they would like to spend hours in an auditorium on a spring Saturday, you might anticipate the answer. However, commencement is magic. It’s the only place in life where I have witnessed so much pure happiness. And whether it is your first graduation ceremony or your thirty-first as a faculty member, for the graduates, it is new and exciting.

Of course, for me, there was always a bit of sadness too. The students who I had come to know and cherish were leaving. Who knew if I would see them again? A senior professor once saw me moping around East Hall a couple of days after graduation and sensed why I was so glum. He said, ‘Don’t worry, there’ll be a whole new group in September.’ That’s the joy of this job, you miss them when they leave, but you get to start over again and again.”

When Rozelle began to “feel his age” in a particular faculty meeting, he decided to retire. 

“My peers advised me that retirement is about moving to where your grandchildren live and playing golf. I hate golf, and I have no children, so I work in two fields of service, organ donation awareness and fighting hunger in Kalamazoo. I serve on committees and make presentations for Gift of Life Michigan, and I work in three food pantries and serve on the finance committee of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.”

Rozelle received a heart transplant in 2001. Since then, he has helped to sign up more than 3,200 people on the donor registry. He plays an equally important role in hunger prevention in Kalamazoo, donating countless hours of his time. He remains actively engaged with WMU’s Department of Accountancy and in touch with many of his former students.