This is the sixth in a series of stories heralding the many great people of the University of Findlay and the ways they support our mission of preparing students for meaningful lives and productive careers.
Getting up at five in the morning is, for some, one of the more unpleasant requirements that one can be tasked with. Normally, of course, this early morning rising is reserved for those who are well into their adult lives, and who need to be up to tend to the “grown up” things that can arise at that early hour. Imagine, however, that you’re only seven-years old and are required by your parents to get up even before the sun. For Duane Jebbett, a University of Findlay Trustee who has enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship with UF, this was a reality.
While being brought up on a 550-acre dairy farm in Cortland, New York, Jebbett describes his dad as being “a fair, but very tough disciplinarian.” Being the oldest boy in the family, he said, he was expected to be up and milking cows at 5 a.m. as a youth, all the way through high school. There were no extra-curriculars. No sports. No family vacations. To know Jebbett now, though, it’s clear that this hard work, and the patience and leadership qualities that were instilled in him as a result, led to the same kind of ethics and determination that UF seeks to instill in its students.
Upon graduating from high school, Jebbett was off to college, but wasn’t entirely sure of the path he wanted to take, other than, he said, “not milking cows 365 days a year.” He settled on and earned an associate of applied science degree in food administration/hospitality, and accepted a job from Howard Johnson’s, based out of New Jersey, as a restaurant manager. “I moved to New Jersey and within two years was moved four times by Hojo’s to clean up poorly run restaurants,” he recalled. “I guess they figured out that I was used to the long and difficult hours due to my farm background.”
No doubt looking for a job that could provide a bit more stability, he eventually left the restaurant business for a managerial position within the agricultural market, and “met some folks from Hancor Drainage Company out of Findlay,” he explained. “I was then recruited to Hancor as the national sales manager, and met Fred Kremer, the CEO of Hancor and himself a Trustee with UF at the time. Jebbett and his wife Kathy moved to Findlay and began building a career with the business. Tragically, Kremer, the man Jebbett called “one of the greatest mentors in [his] life,” was killed in a private plane crash at the Findlay Airport in 1997. The Kremer family recruited Jebbett to take over the business, which had been purchased away from Hancor to become Rowmark, and “the rest is history,” he said. Jebbett is now recently retired from Rowmark after working for twenty years there.
Married for forty-five years to wife Kathy, Duane said the two have a meaningful affiliation with UF, one that began with College of Business Dana Scholars touring the Rowmark facility. “That exposure gave us a great view of the quality of UF students and we began to donate scholarships to help,” he said. “We then recruited a number of these high-quality young adults to Rowmark as we grew.” He became a part of the Board of Counselors and began to get much more involved with the University, leading to his current appointment as a Trustee serving on the Committee of Trustees, as well as the Business Affairs Committees.
The Jebbetts, like other people who become involved with UF in a variety of capacities, can undoubtedly see the same diligence and dedication that Duane enjoys as a result of his upbringing in the many students of UF. Currently both very active in the advancement side for the University, the Jebbetts said that they are “big believers in leadership qualities being paramount to success in any venture.” They have donated toward this belief with a Leadership Room in the new College of Business building, and, Duane said, “strongly believe the future is very bright and that the University is a very important part of the greater Findlay/Hancock County area.”
As Jebbett enjoys retirement after a literal lifetime of hard work, using the ability to mold himself to new ventures alongside some inspiring people to guide his path, he realizes that he and his wife can be those same types of people for future professionals. “This [relationship with UF] has been a very rewarding process as the University transforms itself with new and different programming and strategies,” he noted. “And we believe we can help these students to create a better future for all of us.”