Lea R. Dopson, dean and James A. Collins Distinguished Chair of The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, died the last week of April.
Dopson was an integral part of The Collins College for 16 years, first as a faculty member from 1993 to 2001, then returning for the dean appointment in 2014, after some years at the University of North Texas.
Her commitment to student success and energetic leadership on and off campus were instrumental in advancing the profile and impact of the college, which was recently ranked No. 10 in the world by CEO World magazine.
“Lea was a beloved friend and colleague,” said Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya M. Coley. “She had an irrepressible passion for her work as an educator and scholar, and she expertly fostered lifechanging opportunities for students of The Collins College. We will miss her so much.”
As dean, Dopson worked to connect the college with all segments of the hospitality industry, resulting in a 90% career placement for undergraduates. Through the popular Hospitality Uncorked event, she successfully brought together industry leaders to celebrate the hospitality industry while raising the college’s profile and increasing support for students.
Dopson championed community, inclusion and opportunity, enthusiastically supporting the college’s annual Welcome Back BBQ and student success activities, including the Pineapple Club for first-year students and the hospitality honor society Eta Sigma Delta.
“Dean Dopson’s unwavering support of underserved populations within her college was extraordinary,” shared Leticia Guzman Scott, executive director of student support and equity programs. “At an Educational Opportunity Program graduation reception a few years ago, we had an opportunity drawing for graduation regalia and could only select a few students. Without hesitation, Lea wrote a check to double the number of students we could support.”
During her tenure, over $1 million in scholarships was awarded to students, and the college strengthened its focus on hiring faculty and staff who better reflect the college’s diverse student body. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, she led the effort to award over $150,000 in emergency funds to students.
Dopson oversaw the completion of the LEED Gold-Certified Marriott Learning Center (Building 80) and regularly participated in cross-campus initiatives such as the Future of Work and brand building.
“Dean Dopson touched the lives of all who worked with her,” said Michael Godfrey, associate dean of The Collins College. “Whether it was a future student, a student in her classroom, alum, staff or faculty member, or a fellow administrator, we all benefited from her leadership, curricular and co-curricular ideas, goals to grow our scholarship endowments, and her tireless dedication to securing the financial wellbeing of the college.”
As a faculty member, Dopson taught hospitality managerial accounting, hospitality finance, and food and beverage cost control courses, and authored two texts on those subjects: “Food and Beverage Cost Controls” and “Managerial Accounting for the Hospitality Industry.” Her research focused on competency and curriculum development and sustainable tourism in developing countries.
Beyond her work at Cal Poly Pomona, Dopson led the Cal State University Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, inspiring thousands of students to pursue an education in hospitality. She was the president of the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education and previously served two terms as treasurer. She was the founding president of West Federation Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education and served as a commissioner and site team visitor for the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration.
Dopson’s passion for adventure and international causes manifested in creating a degree program at the Bulawayo Polytechnic in Zimbabwe and a joint degree program between the University of North Texas and Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza in Costa Rica. She also travelled the world, visiting six of seven continents.
Dopson held a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel, and institutional management and an MBA from Texas Tech University, and an Ed.D. in higher education administration with an emphasis in curriculum development from the University of Houston.
The campus community and all Bronco supporters are invited to honor Dean Dopson by sharing memories and thoughts about her on the virtual memorial wall, or by supporting student success through the Dr.Lea R. Dopson Memorial Endowment Scholarship.
The Dr. Lea R. Dopson Celebration of Life will take place Thursday, May 12 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. online and in the courtyard near The Collins College of Hospitality Management’s Marriott Learning Center (Building 80). Please RSVP to attend.