James “Jim” Dietz grew up on a farm in Botkins, Ohio. He never thought about attending The Ohio State University until a high school guidance counselor handed him a brochure.
“I always liked math and chemistry,” he says. “I saw chemical engineering and thought that sounded interesting. I only applied here.”
An esteemed career in engineering that spanned more than 40 years -- including stints at Standard Oil of Ohio and BP in London before culminating in his role as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Potash Corporation -- was born from an interest piqued by that Ohio State brochure.
“I never would have been able to afford to go somewhere else, and there’s this great university with a land-grant mission I can apply to,” Jim says. “I don’t know where I’d be today without it.”
Jim’s wife, Patricia, has been by his side since his last year in the five-year chemical engineering master’s program. They got married after his fourth year, lived together in Columbus so they could experience campus life together, and she worked at the university hospital.
“My wife likes to say she supported me in my last year of college and I’ve supported her ever since,” Jim says with a hearty laugh, a smile spreading across his face. “I really enjoyed the chemical engineering curriculum. That was the cake. The icing was the fifth year, having my wife here, doing student life activities and going to football games. That really added to my student experience.”
But Jim is acutely aware that Ohio State matters deeply to people, including some of his family members who were patients here, but never enrolled in classes. “They all identify with Ohio State. This place means a lot more to people other than employees, students and alumni.”
That’s part of the reason why he serves on the Foundation Board of Directors and sponsors scholarships for six Ohio State students.
“When I look through the eyes of the students Pat and I are sponsoring, I’m blown away,” Jim says. “All six are grateful for the help in removing their debt burdens so I asked them if they would give back when they graduate. All of them said ‘Yes.’”
Paying forward can start modestly and Jim encourages graduating students to “stay involved and give back, even if just a dollar a year.”
“If you want to be a leader, participate,” Jim says, adding that he considers past Foundation Board Chairman Bill Lowrie an inspiration. “I would’ve loved to have worked for that guy in my career. He’s very inspiring. He cuts right through and gets right to the point.”
Jim also likes to get right to the point and his goals for Ohio State are ambitious. In the coming years, he would like to see graduates leave without debt, an enhanced international mix of students, and one more thing that sounds like something out of a brochure.
“I want Ohio State to be not just a top public, but a top of the profile institution. Period. Ohio State should be recognized as a premiere institution, and not just for football, but I want there to be stellar athletics, too,” he says, the smile returning to his face along with a laugh.