Mentorship multiplied

Dr. Ron Marler seeks to multiply the impact of mentorship through two endowed K-State professorships

You never forget your greatest mentors.

That’s why Dr. Ron Marler is working to maximize personal interaction between Kansas State University professors and students. In honor of his late wife, Verna Sullivan-Marler, he’s giving back to educators in hopes of benefiting students for years to come. 

For Ron, it’s personal. The mentorship and personal investment of two graduate professors, Dr. Theresa Perenich and Dr. James Cook, created an effect that was vital in the Marlers’ professional careers and lives.

“I know both Drs. Pereninch and Cook, probably without realizing it at the time, influenced far more than ’10 times 10’,” said Marler. “I wanted to identify an opportunity that would have a multiplier effect.”

Marler established two endowed professorships: the Ronald J. Marler Veterinary Pathology Professorship and the Verna Sullivan-Marler Professorship in Fashion Studies. Ron’s hope is that the recipients of the professorships will invest a majority of their time in the classroom working with students directly.

The Marlers

Ron graduated from K-State with his bachelor’s degree in 1971 and as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1973. He then served the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps as a captain before returning to complete a Ph.D. in veterinary pathology at K-State. Dr. Marler held several senior executive positions in pharmaceutical research, was dean of K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and retired as professor emeritus Mayo Clinic Arizona.

Verna received her bachelor’s in interior design in 1971 and a master’s in clothing and textiles in 1977, both from K-State. She then completed an MBA from Butler University in 1983. The diversity of her educational experience equipped her to follow her passions in interior design, clothing and textiles, and business for personal growth and life-long learning.

Fashion Studies

Dr. Kelsie Doty, the inaugural recipient of the fashion studies professorship, was born and raised in rural Kansas. She attended K-State for both her undergraduate and master’s degrees, and mentors pushed her to continue her education.

“It was because of these amazing educators that I decided I wanted to earn my Ph.D.,” Doty said.

After earning her doctorate in apparel design from Cornell University, Doty immediately returned to K-State, this time as a faculty member. She is now a professor and teaches textiles, technology and aesthetics courses in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ fashion studies program.

One unique attribute of Doty’s teaching is that she involves her students in the local community by maintaining a natural dye garden at Sunset Zoo. Additionally, she works to bring youth to K-State to educate them about sustainable textile production, with an emphasis on what can be produced right here in Kansas.

“It is an incredible honor to be the inaugural recipient of the Verna Sullivan-Marler Professorship in Fashion Studies and to work alongside colleagues that have mentored me for many years,” said Doty. “This gift signifies a part of what make K-State so special, a commitment to mentorship within the Wildcat community. It is through generous contributions, such as Dr. Marler’s, that faculty can follow their passion for teaching the next generation of leaders, thinkers and movers.”

Veterinary Pathology

For Dr. Brandon Plattner, the first Ronald J. Marler Professor in Veterinary Pathology, the professorship has expanded K-State’s pathology residency training program.

The professorship will increase training opportunities such as professional advancement, travel and externships for veterinary residents. Thanks to the generosity of the Marler family, these residents will have greater flexibility to train for specific careers in pharmaceutical development, academia, diagnostic pathology or other areas in veterinary medicine.

Plattner said it is an honor to be the first recipient of the professorship, especially because Dr. Marler was the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine during Plattner’s time at K-State. 

“He is well known and well respected as a pathologist here and within the broader pathology community, so to hold a professorship is an honor, but to hold the one in Dr. Marler’s name is even more so an honor,” said Plattner.

Plattner says this gift is especially important because it will allow him to take up the challenge of improving mentorship at K-State.

“This gift recognizes the importance of good mentoring, specifically in veterinary pathology,” said Plattner. “I have been blessed tremendously with great mentors and trainers who were truly instrumental in my training, career path and trajectory. I am thrilled to be the recipient of this professorship, and I hope to carry the torch well and pass it on to future pathologists!”

Multiplying the Impact

Endowed professorships are an important asset for the advancement of K-State. The support of professorships enables the funding of research projects, promotes student research assistance in the lab and in the classroom and provides support for travel for meetings and conferences to promote scholarship and professional collaboration.

“Endowed professorships allow us to honor talented faculty. Endowed professorships with immediate name recognition, like Dr. Marler, strengthen the brand and prestige of the college,” said Dr. Bonnie Rush, Hodes family dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Marler’s unexpected gift could not have been more timely. The focus on supporting the professional development of future pathologists ensures strong advanced training programs at K-State for generations.”

With Marler’s goal of influencing the mentorship of current students, Drs. Doty and Plattner certainly understand this mission and incorporate it into their daily work with students.

“It is my hope that Dr. Doty and Dr. Plattner will carry on the great traditions embodied in the scholarship of teaching at Kansas State and in the future look back at their careers as having been ‘multipliers’,” said Marler. “My wife and I have deep ties to Kansas State and, to paraphrase the alma mater, it is a spot I know full well. I know of few other ways to influence the future than to educate in the present.”

Written by Ariana Brancato  

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