Connecting campus and corporate America
Dan Kimmet engineers relationships for his alma mater
Marty Kress didn’t know his choice of a seat at an alumni association gathering in 2014 would prove so advantageous.
But as it turned out, Kress, then assistant vice president for research business development at Ohio State, would sit next to Dan Kimmet ’71, ’72 MS, who had worked his way from product engineer to vice president of operations at Eaton Corp. before becoming CEO of Dillin Corp.
The casual conversation Kress and Kimmet struck up that day would be the catalyst for creating an innovative manufacturing initiative.
At the time, Kress was developing the university’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, which facilitates collaboration between university researchers and industry partners. It serves as a portal for the two to interact, helping tailor academic research to best meet industry needs.
When Kress met Kimmet, the assistant VP was preparing to search for the center’s leadership team. And as they sat side by side, he described his ideal candidate.
“I said, ‘My leader has to be business savvy, a proven executive. I’m not looking for a faculty member, but [rather] someone who can help shape and frame this entity and make it a reality — turn it from a concept into a real program,’” Kress said. “And [Kimmet] looked at me, and he said, ‘Really? I’d like to chat with you about that.’”
Kimmet had just retired as CEO of Dillin Corp., a job he took after retiring as vice president of operations at Eaton. As was the case in his first retirement, Kimmet didn’t stay idle long.
Within months of meeting Kress, he became executive director of the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence and remained in the post for a full year.
“For a year, he commuted from Toledo to Columbus, Ohio,” Kress said. “To me, that’s the stuff that really makes Ohio State unique. You have a lot of alums who are very willing to donate their time, services and capabilities back to their alma mater. And these are real professionals.
“That’s quite a tribute [to Ohio State], to be able to get someone like Dan Kimmet,” Kress said.
For Kimmet, staying in touch and in step with his university is part responsibility, part investment.
“Certainly, with success comes an obligation to give back,” he said. “But, in addition to that, as the years went on, I recognized, really, the important work that was being done at Ohio State and [the rewards of] serving the students.
“We’re offering a premier university for a very competitive cost. Ohio State provides really outstanding graduates who are going to be successful in the world and support industry worldwide. That helps in retaining jobs for Ohio and the United States.”
The center grew under Kimmet’s leadership, in large part because of the alum’s many connections, Kress said.
“He had a big circle of people around him that he was using and networking with. He knew who the experts were in every field and within the Ohio State College of Engineering and would get them actively engaged,” he added. “It just showed he had phenomenal leadership and team skills. It showed why he was so successful in industry.”
This wasn’t the first time Kimmet had flexed his communication skills at Ohio State. He has also served on the advisory board of the university’s Center for Automotive Research, the Ohio State President's Club Advisory Board, the Scott Lab Building Committee and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s But for Ohio State campaign subcommittee, which helped raise more than $76 million.
These days, he serves as chair of the Mechanical Engineering External Advisory Board. He also gives his time and counsel to Ohio State as the College of Engineering’s representative and chair of the Alumni Advisory Council. As such, he is also an ex officio member of the Alumni Association Board.
When deciding where to lend a hand, Kimmet and his wife of 46 years, Cindy, have always prioritized education. “I serve on the foundation board of Owens Community College, and I’ve served, in the past, on the board for a small school dedicated to children with learning disabilities. Cindy started a preschool and was a preschool teacher for many years.”
That mindset — that education is “the key to our future” — makes his alma mater and its students an important focus of his time and attention. Retired or not.
“I think we do a wonderful job at Ohio State in cutting-edge research and technology and medicine and social issues,” he said. “That’s very important in strengthening communities, the state, the country and the world.”