Donald Dobroski: Biography

dobroski_donald“Good afternoon sports fans and welcome to Heinz Field where your World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers begin their campaign for another magnificent year.” Seated in seats 1 and 2, Row AA, Section 111, Don and his son David are eager to see Don’s beloved Steelers get off to a strong start. Although David longed to see his Red Sox playing their final games, Don loved football. David had driven from Boston, where he practices as a cardiologist, picked up his father in Rochester, and made the trek to the opening game.

As the teams were warming up, Don began to think about life’s journey well traveled. Years earlier, after an arduous trip across the ocean, Don’s grandparents emigrated from Poland. Life was not much easier in the United States. Jobs were scarce. His grandfather started working in the steel mills. Unfortunately, the mills claimed his grandfather’s life early and the burden of raising their children fell to his grandmother. Don’s father quit school after the sixth grade to begin working in the mills to support his widowed mother and six siblings. Seeking other opportunities that lay ahead, this young boy taught himself trigonometry and logarithms. This desire to be successful has transferred itself from Grandfather to Father to Son. Don could be proud.

“Please rise, remove your hats and join in the singing of our national anthem.” Standing, Don was reminded of his ROTC days at Penn State. After receiving a degree in engineering, Don was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, serving four years in the Army Corps of Engineers. Three of the four years he served were spent in Alaska building roads, constructing buildings and doing anything else that was needed in the 1950s, as Alaska became the 49th state.

Sitting back down, Don saw that Kodak, his first job after his discharge, had sponsored the Game Day program. Even though Don’s two brothers and his sister were still in Pennsylvania, Rochester was where the job was. Don watched as the player who returned the kick began to head up field. It seemed an impossible task, but soon, he had figured out how to get through the mass of humanity. Likewise, Don had eagerly accepted challenges at Kodak, pursing those engineering tasks everyone else thought were too difficult to undertake. Don recalled his many nights that were consumed by his work to obtain an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, proving that you can accomplish anything with hard work.

On the field, the tight end was knocked to the ground. The medical personnel quickly rushed to his aid. Many years earlier, the stress of the job had felled Don. In just his mid 40’s, Don underwent successful bypass surgery. Like the injured player, Don soon returned to work, but he never felt the same. Offered an early retirement package, Don set off to achieve success in other endeavors. Don recounted that his favorite book, Shadow Divers, is all about seeking out adventure and taking a chance.

“Hey Dad,” his son said, “Let’s get a beer.” Don thought about the time he had packed up the Corvette he used to own, to roam the country with David watching numerous Grand Prix car races. He loved the roar of the engine, much like the crowd today. Thinking how he treasured that time to bond with David, Don smiled and nodded his approval of his son’s suggestion. Toasting each other with their Iron City cans, the Steelers started chewing up real estate on the field.

Don’s foray into real estate came almost by accident. Owning a couple of income producing rental properties, Don tried his hand at residential real estate. As fate would have it, this was not enough of a challenge for Don, who had the good fortune to meet Bob Giniecki. Bob introduced him to the creativity of the SEC. Realizing he needed more knowledge, Don took all of the CCIM certification courses, which lead to his first syndication of an apartment project. Looking at Mike Tomlin, coach of the Steelers, Don understood the value of good management. Thinking about it, Don realized his newest passion was tied to his favorite movie “Band of Brothers” about E Company in World War II. Although it fascinated Don to see places where his uncle had been a paratrooper in many of the parachute drops depicted in the film, Don was even more absorbed with the study of leadership demonstrated in the movie. A great manager leads by example, is decisive and will do what it takes to achieve an objective.

Looking around the stadium, Don wondered how many of the fans were apartment renters. Forever the analyst, Don quickly calculated that including a vacancy factor, his apartments would always be full in the right location. Regrettably, the apartment market has been hit hard with tenants who cannot pay rent and those who chose to rent or buy single-family homes, as they were often less expensive. The credit markets have to stabilize for a sense of normalcy to return to this country. Like the running back who tries to get too much yardage, but ultimately fumbles the ball, banks and other institutions became too greedy. Don admires those teams that have minimal debt. Our country has too much debt. Owning hard assets like real estate is Don’s best hedge against inflation. It may not be good for the country, but it may become a reality.

During halftime, with the Steelers ahead, Don and David walked the concourse. Don’s knee replacement in 2006 allowed him to walk comfortably, although he did have to give up skiing, which he had done since being a ski trooper in Alaska in the ’50s. Forever refusing to just accept the situation, Don was playing tennis five months after the surgery. An ad for cheap tickets to Spain reminded David of his time as an exchange student, which brought Don there to spend a couple of weeks using their Eurail passes to explore Western Europe. Don loves to travel, to see new places and to explore new regions of the globe. Unfortunately, Eileen, Don’s second wife is no longer able to travel. Sitting back in their seats, Don could not help thinking about the “hand he had been dealt in life.” But for Don, throwing it back in would not be an option. Family members have died, health problems have been a challenge, the economy is still reeling; but Don’s attitude is to look forward. As the final gun sounded and the crowds cheered the Steelers first victory of the season, Don put his arm around David and thanked God for the blessings of his life.

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  1. […] Don Dobroski, S.E.C., is featured in In the Spotlight . Lance Warner, S.E.C., 2009 President of the S.E.C. Education Foundation, reports on the expansion goals of the foundation. The History Files continue to amaze with “Questions and Answers with Richard Reno”, which was written 34 years ago and is just as relevant today. Cliff Weaver outlines strategies for you to “Build Your Estate”. […]