From Marketing Yellow Pages to the Hill

Engaging, generous, friendly and honest, Don Lavin is content in Business department

On the second floor of Lewis Recitation Hall, tucked in a corner is a simple office belonging to one of the most popular professors in the Business Administration and Economics department at McDaniel College.

For the dozens of students who enter this office daily, they are greeted by Professor Donald Lavin’s smiling face and witty sense of humor. Most of the students who visit Lavin are there simply to socialize with someone they find fun to be around. Considering his popularity with both students and colleagues, you would think that Lavin’s been teaching for most of his life. In truth, Lavin didn’t start teaching at a four year college until 2000. But that doesn’t mean Lavin hasn’t been teaching in other ways for years prior to his arrival in Westminster.

Prior to coming to McDaniel, Lavin worked for thirty years as Vice President of the Yellow Pages marketing department. In fact, Lavin had over seven hundred people reporting to him, so teaching a class of twenty-five hardly unnerves him. After thirty years of working as a VP at the Yellow Pages, Lavin retired. He ended up at McDaniel in the spring of 2000, as a favor for Professor Joseph Carter, who asked Lavin to teach a one semester course on Ethics. The following semester Lavin taught two courses, and within a year he was a full time member of the McDaniel faculty, wrapping up a very short lived retirement.

When asked to compare teaching at McDaniel to working at the Yellow Pages, Lavin mentions the interactions he has. The interactions between students and faculty at McDaniel and the interactions between co-workers and customers at the Yellow Pages are what he enjoys most about what he does. He also mentioned that the biggest difference between business and academics is that in academics you “talk about doing things” and in the business world you “actually do things.”

The enjoyment of teaching and interacting with people continues outside the classroom for Lavin. In his spare time Lavin coaches recreational basketball and lacrosse teams. Lavin is also an avid reader, enjoying fiction novels most of all. But his biggest passion outside of the classroom is spending time with his son and daughter who are also in college. Perhaps having a son and daughter the same age as the students he teaches is part of the reason he is so popular at McDaniel.

Stacy Sherwood, who took Tax Accounting with Lavin in the spring of 2007, says “I find him a lot more understanding than other professors. He seems to relate to students on their level and does not appear as an authority figure.”

Lavin has taught classes in many fields including accounting, ethics, and business, but he says his favorite course to teach is Tax Accounting because he finds the tax business to be a “challenging work endeavor.” And he feels that this is the most practical course because if his students know about the tax business they can save money. Sherwood agrees, adding “I remember what he taught me after the class had ended.”

Lavin, who has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Loyola College, as well as a Masters degree in Finance and Accounting from Loyola is more than just a professor. Fellow professor of Accounting and friend, Susan Milstein, says he is “deeply religious” and practices what he preaches. He is also selfless, constantly putting students and the department before himself. Milstein reminisces about a broken refrigerator in the Business department a few years back, and how whenever Lavin got any extra money, from various sources, he would donate it to the fund to buy a new refrigerator for the department.

Despite his successes and experiences in life, he is constantly humble, Milstein says. She tells how recently he spoke to the students of her Stock club and talked about all the bad choices he had made when it comes to the stock market. Yet she and others know of the countless correct choices he made in the stock market that he refuses to gloat about.

Lavin says one of the most rewarding parts of his job is watching students grow up and “become more comfortable in their own skin.” He says that by the time they graduate as seniors they are almost completely different people from when they arrived as freshman. And while Lavin briefly laments about the administration part of the school and the administration part of his job he concedes that he loves the classroom.

When talking with Lavin it is easy to realize why he is so popular.

He is engaging, generous, friendly and honest. Lavin describes himself as “contented.” And he says he is “confident and satisfied at where I am and what I’ve done.” He says he has no regrets and is very happy living every day as if it were his last. But perhaps it is Milstein who best summarizes Lavin when she says “he is the light of the department.” She continues, saying “mention his name and a smile comes across his or her face.”
That’s probably because Lavin is smiling back.