DePaul Stayed With Me

Photo of John Dickman (LAS ’59)Every time John Dickman (LAS ’59) comes on campus, he has a certain stop to make. “I have my DePaul sweatshirts, and I’ll wander to the store to get something else,” he says. “I’m very proud of my alma mater.”

Dickman is a retired advertising executive who rose to the top of his profession during his tenure at the Chicago Tribune (1959-1982) and USA Today (1982-1999). This life of accomplishment seemed very much in doubt back in 1955, when Dickman left the highly structured, all-male DePaul Academy to face DePaul University’s very different educational atmosphere. A sociology major, Dickman had no one looking over his shoulder to ensure he completed his assignments and made the most of his education. The result of this unaccustomed freedom nearly proved disastrous.

“My grades were not good after my freshman year,” Dickman says, and he feared being kicked out of college. “But Jim Maniola (LAS MA ’52), the registrar at the College of Liberal Arts at the time, took me under his wing and provided some strict guidance. I was able to turn my performance around and graduate with my class.”

In addition, Dickman learned valuable social skills interacting with faculty and a more diverse student population than DePaul Academy offered. “It opened me up socially,” he asserts. “If you told me then I was going to go into sales as a career, I’d have said, ‘I can’t function that way.’ DePaul broadened me, and as a result, I built a career in an area I never thought I could do.”

Dickman made friends with the Rev. Thomas Munster, C.M. (LAS MA ’54), who held a number of positions at DePaul Academy and DePaul University, and Munster followed his career. “He contacted me after seeing an article about me in the Tribune,” says Dickman, “and asked if I had been back to the university. He took me on a tour of the downtown campus and talked about the future and the plans they had. It was then that he convinced me to become a monthly donor, and I’ve been doing so ever since.”

The changes Dickman saw then and has witnessed over the years have been nothing short of amazing to him. “When I went to the university,” he recalls, “I think there were three buildings. The gym was called ‘the barn,’ and it was shared with DePaul Academy for athletic events. The downtown campus was a rental on Lake Street. To see the expansion and growth has been incredible.” The gifts Dickman has made to DePaul have helped change the university landscape for the better.

In addition to making regular contributions, Dickman has included DePaul in his charitable gift and estate planning. “When I left USA Today, I was owed a significant amount of money,” says Dickman. “I had a really good financial advisor who suggested that I make a gift to a nonprofit I really cared about to reduce my tax burden. We contacted DePaul, and I took the payout and converted it into an annuity program for long-term health insurance for my wife and myself. It was good for the university and for us.” Dickman has also designated a bequest to the sociology department.

Dickman appreciates how DePaul made and continues to make education accessible. He was impressed that DePaul made it possible for military veterans to participate in the educational process without letting money get in the way. “If you’re willing to put the work in that’s necessary, they’ll help you get your education,” Dickman asserts. He has never forgotten how individuals who believed in him made all the difference to his future. “I owe just about everything I’ve ever accomplished to DePaul and their willingness to stay with me. When I look at what my life could have been, I feel very grateful.”

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