C. Donald Dorsey, a member of Olin’s National Council, a longtime scholarship supporter, and distinguished alumnus, died on Thursday (May 3, 2018). He was 76.
Mr. Dorsey served as a senior executive for PetSmart during its rapid expansion from seven stores to more than 500. He even served a stint as interim CEO for the company’s operations in the UK, where he was credited with stabilizing its operations in the late 1990s and positioning the overseas unit for continuous improvement at that time.
Longtime members of the Olin community recalled Mr. Dorsey as a tireless booster for Olin and Washington University, where he received his BSBA degree in 1964.
“He was pretty close to me,” said Robert Virgil, dean emeritus at Olin. “He was one of my very first students when I started teaching. I go back a long way with him. I remember him well as a good student, a leader of his class and after graduating, a dedicated alum of Washington University—very generous.”
Virgil recalled Mr. Dorsey being very active in Washington University’s Scholarship Initiative Campaign. Indeed, he and his wife have been benefactors of the Donald and Lydia Dorsey Scholarship since 2006. Two years earlier, Mr. Dorsey had received Olin’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his career accomplishments.
“Don was a very special friend for Olin Business School and Washington University,” said Mahendra Gupta, former Olin dean and Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “He loved his school and his university and was always there to support them and to be a great ambassador.”
Gupta recalled recruiting a reluctant Mr. Dorsey to the National Council by inviting him to a meeting, where he was impressed by the membership of the group and the intense dedication each member shared for the future of the school. He joined the council in 2009.
“Don was an engaged member of the Olin community through his service on our National Council,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “His commitment to supporting students is inspiring and I am grateful for how welcoming he was during my first year as dean.”
Mr. Dorsey was a St. Louis native through-and-through, graduating from Normandy High School, attending Washington University, and signing on for his first job with Price Waterhouse locally. He worked there 12 years before moving into general management with retailers in the grocery, automotive, and eye-ware industries.
In 1989, Mr. Dorsey joined PetSmart—three years after it launched—as senior vice president and chief financial officer, helping the company through enormous growth. The chain had blossomed to more than 500 stores and Mr. Dorsey helped guide the company through its 1993 IPO before he retired in 1999.
“Being a CPA was a strong background for moving into general management,” Mr. Dorsey said upon receiving recognition as a distinguished alumnus. “In building PetSmart, we began by working with consumer focus groups to discover what our customers really needed. From that basis, we built on the concept of one-stop service for their pets.”
At about that time, after his leadership, the company’s UK unit was acquired by UK-based Pets at Home in December 1999. PetSmart later went private after its 2015 takeover by BC Partners for $8.7 billion.
Following his retirement, Mr. Dorsey worked as an adviser and investor for several development-stage consumer-related companies such as Ulta Beauty and Five Below.
His wife Lydia and his children were with him at the time of his death. Mr. Dorsey is survived by his wife, Lydia; daughter, Lisa. and son-in-law, Ken Stewart; daughter, Christine Dorsey; stepsons, Eric Bazarnic and Cliff Bazarnic; daughters-in-law, Lynn Ducey and Zoja Bazarnic.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Pictured above: National Council member and BSBA ’64 Don Dorsey with Frank Duan, BSBA ’16, recipient of the Donald and Lydia Dorsey Scholarship.