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Dr. James Doti dreams to live in a community where everyone has an equal opportunity – where we inspire the next generation to reach for the stars.

Dr. James DotiFortunately for us, Doti has done more than simply wish for a better future for Orange County; he’s helped shaped it. Doti, president emeritus of Chapman University, led the Orange campus for more than 25 years before stepping down this year to return to his first love: teaching.

“I started teaching after I received my doctorate,” he explained. “It was my dream job and my passion. I joined Chapman in 1974 because I wanted to teach at a smaller school where I could work with young people individually.”

He equates this kind of one-to-one mentorship to cultivating a tree to grow or a flower to blossom.

“As I moved into the role of dean and president, I became responsible for looking at the big picture and thinking of what could be best for groups of individuals on campus and across Orange County. It was like tending to a forest,” he recalled.

“Increasingly over the past few years, I desired to return to the classroom and witness the transformational change of individuals again,” he said. “I’m back to nurturing trees.”

Doti joined Chapman’s faculty in 1974 and founded the Center for Economic Research in 1978 (which became the Gary A. Anderson Center for Economic Research in 1997). He was appointed dean of the School of Business and Management – today’s George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics – in 1985 and served twice as Chapman’s acting president in 1988 and 1988-89. He co-authored two textbooks and co-edited a collection of readings that received the Templeton Award for Scholarly Excellence. While serving as president, Doti continued his academic research, focusing not only on econometric forecasting but also on demand and pricing for higher education. His articles have appeared in professional journals as well as the Wall Street Journal and Chronicle of Higher Education. He also has held the university’s Donald Bren Distinguished Chair in Business and Economics since 1999.

Although his visionary leadership has shaped American higher education, he’s most focused on what his work does for Orange County – and why local leadership matters.

Doti will explore this passion as well as his motivation for leaving a legacy here in Orange County during his address at the 2016 OCCF annual meeting, which will be held the day after the U.S. presidential election.

“The theme of the annual meeting – ‘What’s Your Why?’ – prompts us to examine our lives,” he said. “Why are we here? What’s next for us and what does it mean?”

Now more than ever, these questions are top of mind for all of us.

“The answers will be up to you, but I don’t believe the election will make that much of a difference,” he predicted. “Because the greatest impact anyone can have is locally – not nationally. What matters is what we do for our community, at our jobs and for our families.”

Doti points to organizations like OCCF and those who fuel our growth as evidence of the power of local action.

“OCCF helps individuals who want to make a difference,” he said. “They’re a conduit for people to give back to the community and especially important because OCCF has identified the highest priority needs for our community.”

Returning to teaching is giving Doti a renewed opportunity to focus on his own philanthropy, too, and provide leadership to local nonprofits helping Orange County youth pursue opportunities for higher education. He advises and supports the Simon Scholars Program, which helps economically disadvantaged students who face difficult life circumstances advance themselves through a college education, and MIND Research Institute, a neuroscience and social benefit organization developing visual math programs and changing the way math is taught in the United States.

“It troubles me significantly that there are segments of our Orange County community who will not go on to college or complete college because of income inequality,” Doti said. “Without a college experience, they won’t have the same opportunities for job advancements. Education makes life much better, and that’s why I chose to focus on ensuring all kids have the same opportunity to pursue a college education.”