The faculty and staff of The Collins College of Hospitality management are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear Dean, colleague and friend, Dr. Lea R. Dopson, Dean and James A. Collins Distinguished Chair. For sixteen years, Dr. Dopson was an integral part of The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, first as a faculty member from 1993 until 2001 and then as Dean from 2014 until her passing. She has touched and bettered the lives of those who had the opportunity to work with her or be a student in her classroom as well as future students and faculty who will benefit from her leadership, policies, curriculum, and her tireless dedication to securing the financial wellbeing of the school.
In addition to teaching hospitality managerial accounting, hospitality finance, and food and beverage cost control courses, Dr. Dopson championed several important projects and career-long causes in her time as a Cal Poly Pomona faculty member. She designed and advised the hospitality opportunity program for educational enhancement (HOPE2) for underrepresented hospitality students, she advised the ICHRIE (International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education) ESD (Eta Sigma Delta) Honor Society, which recognizes hospitality and tourism students for outstanding academic achievement, service and professionalism, and Dr. Dopson spearheaded a major overhaul to the curriculum. She shared her sense of adventure and passion for international causes when she spent nine months developing a degree program at the Bulawayo Polytechnic in Zimbabwe.
Dr. Dopson left Cal Poly Pomona in 2001 to become the Chair of the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at the University of North Texas. Here she enjoyed great success in growing the North Texas program with a doubling of faculty members and a 300% increase in students. She returned to The Collins College of Hospitality Management as Dean in 2014 and, through her leadership, achieved several incredible accomplishments that have and will continue to move the college forward. As an academic administrator, she completed the construction of the LEED Gold Certified Marriott Learning Center (Building 80) on time and under budget, as well as several other facility renovations and upgrades. She wrote and implemented several strategic plans and assessments that resulted in significant external funding, industry partnerships and student scholarship opportunities. During her tenure, over $1 million in scholarships were awarded to deserving students. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, she led the effort to award over $150,000 to students in need. She was a loyal supporter of the Collins Ambassador and Pineapple Club programs, and she continued to be a great supporter of the College’s ESD chapter, never missing the opportunity to congratulate its newest members at each induction ceremony. Her efforts to increase our exposure and partnerships with all segments of the hospitality industry helped create a 90% career placement for our undergraduates. Dean Dopson supported numerous student success activities and events on-and-off campus, including our fall semester, Welcome Back BBQ, which brought together almost 800 hungry students with the ultimate goal of creating a strong sense of community and student success. With a commitment to diversity at her core, Lea hired and mentored over 15 diverse faculty and staff that were reflective of the student body of the college. Dr. Dopson’s leadership, on and off campus, was instrumental to the college’s most recent ranking by CEOWorld magazine as the No. 10 program in the world.
Beyond The Collins College, Dr. Dopson led the Cal State University Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, which inspired thousands of students to pursue an education in hospitality. She was the current President of ICHRIE and had served two terms as Treasurer prior. Dean Dopson was also the founding President of West Federation CHRIE. She served as a Commissioner and Site Team Visitor for the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA). Dr. Dopson’s research focused on competency and curriculum development and sustainable tourism in developing countries. She authored two texts, Food and Beverage Cost Controls and Managerial Accounting for the Hospitality Industry. Her passion for seeing the world also resulted in her accomplishments of traveling to six of the seven continents in the world and creating a master’s program in International Sustainable Tourism joint degree program between the University of North Texas and Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), Costa Rica.
We are grieving and now working diligently to honor Dr. Lea R. Dopson’s legacy as an icon in hospitality education.
Please RSVP for the Dr. Lea R. Dopson Celebration of Life on Thursday, May 12th, at 4:00 PM in the courtyard near Building 80, The Collins College of Hospitality Management’s Marriott Learning Center.
We will truly miss you!
Michael D. Godfrey, Associate Dean and The Collins College staff & faculty