Professor of Economics and Business Administration
It's probably no coincidence that Jim Donaldson played trumpet in his high school marching band. Like college faculty, trumpets are distinctive, yet part of a cohesive ensemble. That pitch-perfect individuality meshed with the ability to syncopate his talents to a larger group has served Jim steadily throughout his career.
"Ultimately, band gave me an opportunity to learn about teamwork," he recalls.
In fact, Jim's ability to move seamlessly between groups started in high school, where he was a band stalwart, yet also a master statistician for the football and basketball teams. That duality was modeled at home in Pittsburgh, where Jim's mother was a high school teacher with a master's degree and his father worked as the yardmaster for the Montour Railroad.
"I have great memories of going to the railyard with my dad and sitting in the steam locomotives," he says. "My mom taught English and Spanish at my high school. I was expected to go to college-there was no other scenario."
Jim visited Juniata's campus on the advice of a teacher and found a community that immediately appealed to him. Following his mother's example, he came to college as a secondary education and math major. However, by his junior year his economics classes were on a growth curve.
"I was very engaged on campus," Jim says. "I was president of student government and served as resident director my senior year." Jim also was matrimonially engaged off campus shortly after graduation in 1967 and with marriage on the horizon, he opted for the working world instead of graduate school.
An alumnus, Jack Haskell '65 worked for Firestone Inc., then the second-largest tire manufacturer in the country, and he recruited Jim as a methods engineer for a Firestone tire factory in Pottstown, Pa. "Working in a factory wasn't the most fun thing in the world, but I learned a great deal about how people work," he says.
Jim accepted a methods engineering position at Firestone headquarters in Akron, Ohio. He then moved to the finance division as an economist. Among other assignments he studied worldwide supply and demand for natural rubber, including a major study on Kenya. At the same time he began work on his master's degree, completed in 1982 at the University of Akron.
"When you analyze the potential of building a factory in Kenya and the company makes a multimillion-dollar investment there, that makes you feel pretty good, but I felt lost in a large organization," he says.
In 1972, he left Firestone to work in strategic planning for Questor Corp. "It was one of the old-style conglomerates that acquired lots of different businesses," he says. He worked first in the corporation's home products division and later in the automotive division, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. "They were looking for people who could do long-range planning for different organizations," he explains. "We were trying to fix divisions that had some major problems."
By the late '70s Jim's first marriage had ended (he is now married to art historian Karen Rosell) and his Juniata roots tugged at him again. The business faculty had an opening. "Ron Cherry ('53) called me and asked 'Are you interested?"" he recalls. "I had to make some adjustments, like my salary was literally cut in half, but I was coming to a place where I respected the values."
Jim, who has been at Juniata since 1979, remains active in all sorts of activities and organizations. He is the faculty athletic representative, a director on the JCEL board and probably harbors a secret competition with provost Jim Lakso to see who goes to the most sporting events.
"I always thought I would be a teacher, so coming here was like closing a loop on my life," Jim says. "It keeps me young-well, younger."
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