Retired - Human Resource Manager for ExxonMobil Products Research and Technology, B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Nebraska 1970
Dunn is a 1965 Kearney High School graduate. He serves on the Engineering Advisory Board, speaks to Nebraska engineers about career development and, along with his wife, Nancy, is on the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees. They established the Nancy D. and John T. Dunn Scholarship Fund – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Scholarships in 1994, and he was a lead supporter and co-founder for the Chemical Engineering Alumni Excellence Fund established in 2000 as an unrestricted fund for overall support of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department. He is also a member of the University of Nebraska Foundation Engineering Campaign Committee. The Dunns, who live in St. Petersburg, Fl., have two children and two grandchildren.
This spring 500+ students completed their studies at Nebraska Engineering, with many commencing their careers. This milestone reminded John Dunn of when he graduated and started working for ExxonMobil at its Baton Rouge, La. refinery. He had several important realizations as he began his first “real-world” job.
“I was very pleased with my choice to have studied chemical engineering, and I saw that my education from Nebraska was second to none,” Dunn said. “In the refinery I worked alongside engineers from all over—my peers included graduates from MIT, Big Ten schools, and all the major engineering programs.” He added, “I was happy that my undergraduate years at Nebraska resulted in a first-class education (that) helped me compete very well.”
Soon, he made another key discovery: “I found that I enjoyed helping people launch and develop their careers.” Dunn gravitated to supervisory positions including department head of personnel at the Baton Rouge Refinery. He advanced to Houston, then New Jersey where he was Employee Relations Manager at Exxon’s Bayway Oil Refinery. He joined Exxon Chemical Company’s headquarters in Darien, Connecticut, as Manager of Planning, Policies and Benefits.
He rose to be Manager of Human Resources for a series of Exxon operations in New Jersey, then became Human Resource Manager of ExxonMobil Products Research Department when Exxon and Mobil merged in 2000. He retired from that position in 2006.
Most of those years, Dunn returned to Nebraska on recruiting trips. He enjoyed talking with students, hearing their questions and trying to provide information, and encouraging them to work hard.
“I always told them, ‘If you have any liking for the curriculum, stick with it—you’ll be able to do anything with your engineering degree.’ My engineering degree took me into human resources,” he said with genuine enthusiasm.
His top tip? “Get off to a fast start—in classes and on the job,” Dunn said. “In class it’s easier to maintain a high GPA, rather than working to bring it back up, and the same applies at work: if you can be active and take initiative, you’ll have more opportunities.”
Dunn’s wisdom has served to motivate alumni interested in helping the College of Engineering achieve further success, as private giving propels the college to new levels of engineering education. To do more in supporting students, faculty, programs and research at our alma mater during this Campaign for Nebraska for the College of Engineering, Dunn and Advisory Board members hope that all Nebraska Engineering graduates will consider paying it forward for students enrolled now and in the future, allowing the best engineering education possible for our fellow Nebraskans and beyond.
Again, he emphasized an early start—advising alumni to “try engaging early in some way and get in a pattern of doing that. There are many ways to help, through time or financial resources: going back to UNL & recruiting for your current organization, serving on advisory board with your department or the college, giving college guest lectures, hosting site visits, visiting E-Week …”
“The point is,” Dunn concluded, “when we were students, we benefited from alumni involvement—and now it’s our turn.”