Anyone who visited Professor Dave O’Dell’s office in the basement of Melhorn Science Hall would certainly notice the number of plaques covering the walls and on closer look would discover a career, spanning 40 years, devoted to McPherson College, his students, and the community. O’Dell, a long-time professor of accounting, retired at the end of the 2019 fall semester. While packing up his office, he had the opportunity to reflect on a career that he described as “blessed.”
In a book he was clearing from a shelf titled “Seven Laws of the Learner,” O’Dell pointed to a line in it with the note “epitaph?” written in the margin.
“Right here, it says ‘See how he loved his students.’ It’s where I may have failed at times but when I did succeed, those are the meaningful times,” he said. “I’ve developed some good relationships over the years. Some of my best friends are former students.”
O’Dell’s career at McPherson College began shortly after he began his own career in public accounting. The college had contacted his boss for leads on filling a part-time professor opening in business and accounting.
“He recommended me,” O’Dell said. “I was extremely surprised. At the time, I thought ‘I’m not a teacher’ but the students liked me, and I discovered that I had something to share.”
He began teaching part-time for two years and then full-time. He points to a box on the floor that is overflowing with books and papers and explains it is his “humor box.” Shortly after he started teaching full-time is when the puns began.
“Accounting is not the most interesting subject in the world,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to take a break, and I think humor is a good way to relieve stress.”
Four to five former students and a good friend help keep the supply of puns replenished, but most of them are originals from O’Dell.
“The best puns are the ones just off the cuff,” he said. “Once they start, they just keep coming. People ask me how I keep it going and I have no clue.”
Although O’Dell will be remembered by students for his puns, he will be remembered by many others for his service to the college and community.
On one wall of his office hang the service awards he has received from McPherson College and on another his Professor of the Year award and his Citation of Merit award for outstanding alumni. He has been recognized for his service on a variety of boards including the McPherson Chamber of Commerce, McPherson Hospital, Kansas Society of CPAs, and honored by the Small Business Administration as an accounting advocate in the Wichita district and by the Kansas Business Educators Association as the post-secondary business educator of the year.
He is also extremely dedicated to economic development and is the longest-serving member of the South Central Kansas Economic Development District. Since 1985, he has assisted more than 300 small businesses to get started in the McPherson area.
“I may be a CPA, but entrepreneurship is what I love,” he said. “I was raised in a small business and learned about payroll and cash flow over dinner when my parents were talking about the family business. It was a way of life.”
In retirement, O’Dell plans to continue his work with economic development and accounting work during tax season but also plans to take time for coffee with friends and to travel with his wife.