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Chuck Ulmer ’65

Chuck Ulmer '65 with his wife, Linda.

Chuck Ulmer '65 with his wife, Linda.

Donor Profile

How did your Dickinson education prepare you for your career path?

My career largely revolved around management accounting. I worked in various jobs, but most of my career was at Capital Blue Cross overseeing the finances for the IT Division. I was the only department-specific finance analyst/manager who did not work for the finance division. I also proudly served for 28 years as an officer in the U.S. Army, National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

Just a few months after my graduation from Dickinson (and two days after my wedding to my beautiful wife, Linda), I received my orders to report for active duty for eventual service in Vietnam. My Dickinson experience was invaluable—it gave me the skillset to interact with the leaders of my unit. My accounting professor, Professor King, introduced me to a working knowledge of finance and taught me how to work with budgets and numbers. I even remember late one day during my Vietnam tour I was asked to be directly involved in solving a multimillion-dollar budget imbalance for senior staff to review the next morning. I wouldn’t have been able to help without my Dickinson education.

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?

I was actually a transfer student to Dickinson. While Dickinson provided most of my post-secondary education, I started out at Penn State Mont Alto, wanting to study forestry economics and the business science behind forestry management. I eventually found that it wasn’t for me, so I transferred to Dickinson to focus on economics and business. At the time, there was no business major, but I wanted to focus on business finance. I can remember the first day of accounting 101. Professor King walked in and without saying anything drew a “T” on the board. He asked us what it stood for, and no one in the class could answer. He then told us that in this class, the “T” would represent debits and liability. He had worked in the business world and taught us using real world experience. He was one the most impactful people in my 40-plus-year career. 

I graduated with a degree in economics, and I especially appreciated the attentiveness and mentoring I received from Dickinson faculty not involved with my major. They pushed me academically and really helped me look through my courses to see what would work best for my chosen major. My Dickinson education and service in the Army, via an ROTC commission, had a profound impact on my life—I wouldn’t be where I am today without either experience.

A liberal-arts education encouraged me to think independently. I was able to take what I learned and apply it to how I was going to use it. It was the liberal arts that helped me learn the methodology of thinking about how you could bring your expertise and background to the table and communicate effectively.

What inspired your gift to Dickinson?

I learned about the importance of giving back at a young age. My mother was incredibly involved with the United Way in our local community. She instilled in me the importance of giving back, and it was through her experience that I saw the impact of philanthropy. My family instilled in me the belief that you should give back to organizations who shaped your life. Dickinson was that place for me—it taught me many lessons that have given me the basic tendencies of how I live my life today. I am proud to be a Dickinsonian and have been regularly giving to the college for 52 years.

Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?

My Dickinson education made a profound impact on my daily life, and I still feel the benefits of my experience today. I know that future generations will be looking for the same sort of life-changing experience, and I believe there is an ever-present need for Dickinson to exist. My regular financial support can help the college continue to offer an education that will make a difference

You are among a handful of alumni who have been giving to Dickinson for 50 years or more! Can you share why you have chosen to give to Dickinson almost every year since your graduation?

I started my regular gifts to Dickinson soon after my return from service in Vietnam. I have always felt Dickinson deserved and needed my financial support—regardless of the size of my gifts. I choose to support Dickinson every year so that my gifts can have an immediate impact on current students.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?

Even though I was a transfer student, I made a lot of really great friends while I was on campus. While I wasn’t involved with a fraternity, I vividly remember one momentous food fight between nine fraternities. We independents simply stepped aside and watched the melee. One of my favorite things was to gather a group of friends (one whom arranged a blind date where I met my wife of some 53 years) and go to the Carlisle Diner—we always gathered our coins, split the  tab for beer and a plate of crackers and cheese. It was a great way to spend a few hours! I also recently experienced my first hot-chee dog at the Hamilton. These were a few off-book experiences to remember!

Can you tell us about what you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.?

Recent retirement years brought more direct reunion planning and Commencement participation—I’m very proud of my class and my classmates. I represent our decade as a Decade Representative during Commencement and give to our class scholarship. I am glad to see our class scholarship being used where Dickinson needs it. Family travels including two children and two growing grandchildren are joys. I do lots of walking daily. Volunteer work has included charity board participation, often utilizing my financial experience and interest. I did five years assisting with people’s tax preparation thru the VITA program. Current activity as comptroller for a railroad historical preservation group once brought thanks from a board member for bringing our accounting system nearer to the 21st century. I also remain involved with membership database services for my wife’s nursing school alumni association.

What advice would you give to today’s students

Learn how to communicate in real words and conversation, not necessarily via social media. This was a key skill for me in my 40-plus-year career, and it is essential to success. Take advantage of all opportunities offered. Speaking from experience, when you demonstrate your skills, even the smallest skill, it can (and will) pay huge dividends later.

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Published April 23, 2019