Archive for Thursday, August 8, 1991


August 8, 1991


John O. Tollefson, a professor and former dean of the school of business at Kansas University, died Wednesday from injuries he suffered in a logging accident near Eugene, Ore. He was 54.

Mr. Tollefson apparently was struck and killed by a falling tree while working near his mother's home.

Mr. Tollefson came to KU in 1967 as an assistant professor of business. He was dean of the school from 1981 to 1990. He returned to full-time teaching last year. During his tenure as dean, the school experienced one of the largest enrollment increases in its history.

"John Tollefson served the University of Kansas well through a long career as a faculty member and administrator," said Del Brinkman, vice chancellor for academic affairs at KU. "He was a kind and gentle man. This community will miss him."

JOSEPH PICHLER, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kroger Co. and Mr. Tollefson's predecessor as dean of the business school, said they were "wonderful friends" who taught and wrote together. He said "integrity" was the first word any acquaintance of Mr. Tollefson's would use to describe him.

"He had wonderful values and he lived them," Pichler said. "That led the rest of us to be better than we knew we could be. He had a strong love for his family that came first.

"He was a great scholar and administrator. He had a combination of talents that is very rare in someone. And you add to that a person who was a joyous outdoorsman he loved to hunt and fish and he also was someone who loved poetry and literature. He was a man for all seasons."

Pichler said Mr. Tollefson enjoyed success as dean because "he had a strong understanding of the multiple needs of the school." He added that Mr. Tollefson spent hours counseling with students, set high standards for the faculty and saw the importance of the school being part of the university by considering liberal arts and sciences as an important base for business education.

PICHLER SAID Mr. Tollefson was active in bringing the business community into the school.

"He was someone who understood the importance of balancing and drawing the full value from all constituencies," Pichler said. "That's a very difficult task to achieve, and he did it marvelously."

V. Parker Lessig, Frank Pinet Distinguished Teaching Professor in Business, said he developed a close friendship with Mr. Tollefson while Mr. Tollefson was his dissertation adviser.

"He was the type of individual who was always seeking the right thing to do, not necessarily the most popular thing," Lessig said. "He had a great deal of concern for students, faculty and people in general."

Lessig said Mr. Tollefson touched many people in many ways.

"He was a private man, but also one who was very warm and caring," Lessig said. "He showed that care and concern in the decisions he made and the way he dealt with people. That certainly was a side of John that I saw frequently and valued very much."

MR. TOLLEFSON was born March 24, 1937, in Eugene, Ore. He earned his bachelor's degree in forest engineering from Oregon State University, a master's degree in industrial management from Purdue University in 1960, and a doctorate in economics, also from Purdue, in 1966.

He was an assistant professor at Tulane University from 1963 to 1967 before he came to KU. He became an associate professor in 1970 and professor in 1974. He was acting associate dean at the school of business in the 1973-74 academic year and was associate dean from 1974 to 1981.

He was a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church and academic organizations such as the American Institute for Decision Sciences, the American Marketing Assn., the Institute of Management Sciences, the Pscyhometric Society and the American Association of University Professors. He performed consulting work for businesses such as Dillon Companies, Black and Veatch, and W.A. Hanly & Associates.

He married Nona Falmlen, a professor and chair of educational psychology and research at KU, on Aug. 27, 1961, in Grand Island, Neb. She survives of the home.

Other survivors include two sons, John F., Lawrence, and William G. "Bill," Plano, Tex., a daughter, Elizabeth Tollefson, Lawrence; his mother, Ona Belle Tollefson, Eugene, Ore.; and two brothers, Bill, Seattle, and Robert, San Francisco.

Memorial services are pending. Warren-McElwain Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.

The family suggests memorials to the John O. Tollefson Doctorial Student Teaching Award at the KU school of business, in care of the funeral home.

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