The Lake Erie College community is saddened to report the death of Robert J. Trebar, PhD, who passed away Oct. 2, 2018.
From the time Dr. Trebar arrived on campus in 2004, students, staff and faculty members alike looked forward to crossing his path. An undeniably intelligent and effective professor, he was perhaps best known for his kind and genuine demeanor. Dr. Trebar’s ability to seamlessly impart wisdom in the context of any conversation was impressive, leaving those with whom he’d spoken a renewed sense of inspiration and better off for it.
As dean of the School of Business and professor of business administration, Dr. Trebar oversaw his school’s curriculum while teaching graduate courses on business strategy and a first-year humanities course known as “The Pursuit of Happiness.” He was particularly fond of the latter course, proudly noting his students’ personal growth throughout the semester as they placed critical lenses on concepts as essential as human happiness and wellbeing. His goal, he shared, was to make students question accepted views on all types of matters, learning all the while how to think for themselves.
The School of Business thrived under Dean Trebar’s leadership, increasing in number of undergraduate majors from two to nine while enrollment for the Parker MBA program more than quadrupled. Trebar encouraged his students to go beyond mere “problem-solving” to what he deemed the more valuable task of “problem-finding,” whether they be studying entrepreneurial behavior theory, health care business strategy, regional economic development, or something else altogether.
Entrepreneurs who have graced the halls of LEC in the past decade owe Dean Trebar their debt, too. In 2006, he authored a grant proposal that was awarded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, serving to establish the Lake Erie College Center for Entrepreneurship. At $1.3 million, it remains the largest foundation grant in the College’s history.
Though he taught part-time for many years, it wasn’t until mid-life that Trebar redirected himself to academia full-time. Before coming to Lake Erie College, he held a number of leadership positions in the business world. Much of his 25-year career was spent in the medical technology industry, most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Biomec, Inc., a start-up venture specializing in emerging diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. Prior to that, he was the Vice President of Marketing for Philips Medical Systems, a global leader in the medical imaging industry. Earlier in his career, Dr. Trebar held a number of positions with British Petroleum Ltd. and Brush Wellman, Inc. in the areas of finance, marketing, strategic planning, and mergers and acquisitions. He taught as an adjunct instructor at a number of Ohio colleges and universities, as well.
Dr. Trebar was often called on for his wisdom. He appeared before sub-committees of the US House of Representatives regarding the marketing of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. He consulted with organizations globally on the subject of business unit and corporate-level strategy, with clients ranging from Johnson & Johnson to the Cornell University School of Medicine. He even served as an advisor to the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Slovenia on the topic of entrepreneurship education and conducted entrepreneurship seminars for the Ohio Department of Development.
With accolades ranging from Faculty Member of the Year (Lake Erie College, 2008), Distinguished Marketing and Sales Executive of the Year (Cleveland Chapter of the Sales and Marketing Executives Association, 2007), and Memorable Educator (Ohio Magazine’s “Excellence in Education” issue, 2013), Dr. Trebar’s expertise as an educator and leader was unquestionable. He served on a number of for-profit and non-profit boards, as a member of the Cleveland Business Leaders Committee and as a member of the Education Committee of the Cleveland City Club, readily offering advice and comedic relief to those around him.
Trebar himself earned a BA in economics from John Carroll University, an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, and a PhD in higher education administration and policy from the University of Toledo, where he was named a Russell Scholar. He was published and presented widely on his primary research interest, the influence of the college experience on the entrepreneurial attributes of students.
Students and colleagues alike described Dr. Trebar as a fountain of wisdom who could effortlessly breathe life into complex concepts by way of real world examples. He was the type of supportive educator whose passion was contagious and who made those around him truly feel heard. He spoke often of his affection for the small, intimate atmosphere Lake Erie College offers that allows for the growth of relationships and challenging of assumptions.
In his address as the featured speaker for the College’s May 2017 graduate commencement, Dr. Trebar spoke candidly about the importance of nurturing one’s inner career. While society is most often concerned with the appearance of one’s outer career, he explained, the inner career is what truly offers peace.
“Your inner career is built by confronting your own demons,” he told the graduates. “You haven’t come this far to settle for being the best. Always work to be better than you used to be.”
Once asked what concept he would like every student to know and understand, Trebar had responded: “Life is short. Don’t let someone else define success for you.”
Dr. Trebar will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate enough to cross his path, at Lake Erie College and beyond. His mark on the College will be everlasting.
Dr. Trebar's family asks that gifts be made in his memory to the Robert J. Trebar Memorial Scholarship Fund to support students pursuing academic majors within the School of Business. Checks may be made payable to Lake Erie College.
Details regarding a memorial service for Dr. Trebar will be announced as they become available.