Utah State University lost one of its most beloved professors Jan. 9 after he suffered a stroke. Dennis Dolny was the head of the Kinesiology and Health Science department and the Nursing and Health Professions department. According to his staff, he left behind a legacy worth remembering. A celebration of life service, open to the public, was held Jan. 27 Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall.
“If anyone deserves to be celebrated, it’s him,” said Carmell Burns, the nursing department staff assistant.
Dolny was known throughout the department as a high-energy, charismatic and effective leader.
“I think for most of us, the part of his death that was the most shocking was that he was always so full of energy and enthusiasm,” said Carole Grady, the director of the nursing program and a close colleague of Dolny’s. “He was a very dynamic person, and he never seemed tired.”
Grady said Dolny was instrumental in bringing about positive change in the nursing program. The Bachelor of Nursing Science degree was first implemented in fall 2017, and she said Dolny was the driving engine behind its creation.
“He was also instrumental in making sure the nursing program was in the new clinical science building,” Grady said. “We are very fortunate to be moving there in March.”
Grady and Dolny were both appointed to their positions in summer 2016, and Grady recalled their first meeting with fondness.
“The first time I met Dr. Dolny was at a nursing faculty retreat in Price,” she said.
The retreat was not only Dolny and Grady’s first meeting, but both of their first times meeting the nursing faculty.
“We were going around doing introductions, and I asked Dr. Dolny to start,” Grady said. “It was supposed to be just a brief introduction, but his went on for about 45 or 50 minutes. He liked to talk. I was leading the meeting, and I was wondering if I should cut him off so we could get it going, but I wasn’t sure because it was my first time meeting him, my new boss.”
Grady remembers not only Dolny’s lengthy introduction, but also her thoughts on his demeanor.
“When I think about that story, it was probably the only time that I ever considered him my boss,” she said. “He ended up being a really great colleague and treated me as well too. He was so supportive of me and what I was doing.”
Grady also said Dolny made sure the nursing program never went without.
“He never refused when I asked for money. He relied on my judgement,” she said.
Dolny was previously a professor of Kinesiology at the University of Idaho for 24 years, then had a 10-year tenure at USU.
“It was seamless, his transition to take control of the nursing program.” Grady said. “He really embraced it. He was always very engaged in whatever it was he was doing.”
Grady gave one such story for Dolny’s excitement about education.
“We use simulators in the nursing program — basically very high tech mannequins that are responsive to procedures,” she said. “He was so excited when we were getting those, that when the faculty was having training in our lab, he was there with his cell phone taking videos of it all.”
Dolny always maintained his composure and professional spirit despite his fun-loving spirit, Grady said.
“I only saw him mad once. He always seemed to be up,” she said.
Dolny’s passion for his faculty and staff went deeper than the instructional hours, and he was willing to do whatever was needed to help, Grady said.
“He always went over and beyond the call of duty,” she said.
She recalled a story from when the nursing faculty was placed in the Lundberg building in anticipation for the Clinical Science building’s construction.
“We had asked Dr. Dolny if we could possibly get a little microwave and refrigerator so that we didn’t have to go out for lunch,” Grady said. “He said sure, but not only did he give the funds, he went out and got it and delivered it himself. He hauled them up those steep stairs.”
Grady spoke at the celebration of life service.