In 1965, college-bound, 18-year-old Don Dresback searched for the southern-most Catholic school he could find, and came across St. Thomas University, known then as Biscayne College. He didn’t know much about the college other than the address and phone number, but he knew it had to be warmer than his hometown of Erie, Pa. Don applied, received an acceptance letter, and before he knew it, he was on his way to the Sunshine State to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.
In the four years he spent at STU, his most memorable moments came from living in the dormitories, developing lifelong friendships, and going to socials at nearby colleges like Barry and Marymount College, now Lynn University.
“Many of us were out-of-state students looking to get into adventures, and we became a very close-knit group,” he said. “I am very grateful for the friendships I developed; and almost 50 years later, several of us still communicate by email and meet up for lunch or dinner when possible. Of the 40 or so graduates in 1969, about 10 of us are still regularly in touch.”
One friendship in particular proved to be the most endearing and impactful – the friendship between him and his wife, Patricia, which started over a game of bridge.
“The biggest highlight of my Biscayne College life was meeting my wife Pat in 1969 at Barry College. I was the president of the STU bridge club, and she was the president of Barry’s bridge club. We met over a bridge table, and the rest is history. In October we will be celebrating 48 years of marriage!”
After graduating in 1969 with a bachelor’s of science, Don pursued his master’s degree at Indiana University where he also worked as a math graduate assistant. Afterward, he and his wife moved to Baltimore where he continued to teach math, but at inner city public schools.
During this time, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and Don joined the Maryland National Guard. He served for six years in a MASH unit as an operating room surgical assistant. In 1972, Don started his insurance career in Annapolis, Md.
Yearning for the year-round summer weather of South Florida, Don and his family relocated to Boca Raton, where he met his business partner of 38 years. Together, in 1979, they established The Beacon Group, Inc., an independent insurance agency serving the South Florida tri county area.
Throughout the years Don has been very busy growing his business and his family – he has three daughters and four grandchildren – but he always made time for STU. For the last 35 years he’s been active with the university in some way or another. He’s currently the chair of the President’s Board of Advisors, and aside from contributing his time, he also contributes to student scholarships.
“It’s important for people to understand the impact individual contributions, big or small, have on a university and its students. I’m fortunate to be able to contribute my time and to contribute financially. I know from personal experience how straining college expenses can be on students. When I was a student, I worked in the cafeteria and as a dorm counselor, and I also had loans.”
Many STU students today, like many Biscayne College students in the 60’s and 70’s, are the firsts in their families to go to college, and scholarship gifts help these students achieve their dreams of becoming college graduates. In turn, donors like Dresback hope these first-generation graduates become leaders, give back and inspire other students.
“And it’s not all about the dollar amount, but the participation and time you invest. For me, it’s important to give back to an institution that has academically and personally helped me achieve success, and I want to offer that opportunity to others who are struggling like we were in the 60’s. Someone needs to help them along the way and make sure they get a quality education. That’s why I give.”
To learn more about supporting St. Thomas University, click here.