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UW College of Business Selects Zawacki as 2022 Distinguished Alumnus

April 26, 2022
man and woman
Robert “Bob” Zawacki, here with wife Jimmie, is the 60th annual Distinguished Alumnus of the UW College of Business. (Zawacki Family Photo)

The University of Wyoming’s College of Business has selected Robert “Bob” Zawacki as its 60th annual Distinguished Alumnus.

Zawacki was nominated for this year’s award for his outstanding academic and professional career, as well as his demonstrated integrity and philanthropic activities.

The award will be presented in person Friday, April 29, at the 71st annual UW College of Business Recognition Dinner at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

Graduating with honors, Zawacki earned his Bachelor of Science in management from the UW School of Commerce and Industry in 1963 and then his MBA in 1966. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Washington in 1970, where he worked with several top leaders in the field of organization development.

“Dr. Zawacki has a deep affection for the University of Wyoming College of Business and his life-changing experience at UW,” says one of his nominators. “He would be willing to do all that he could to promote the future of the college.”

Zawacki has positive memories from his time at UW.

“I have very special memories of Professors Jack Routson, John Miller, Dean Mundell and Professors Messer and Burdick -- both in accounting,” he says. “I received the honor book for high GPA in my junior year and tied for the honor in my senior year. I was part of the first class to graduate from the new Commerce and Industry Building.”

Before attending UW, Zawacki enlisted in the Air Force, where he was assigned at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne -- advancing quickly in rank. In 1958, he was reassigned to the Air Force ROTC at UW, where he would begin taking courses as a student. While at UW, he was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi, an all-university honor society.

Zawacki served a distinguished career in the Air Force, working his way up to officer. He received numerous decorations and commendations, including the Meritorious Service Medal -- an award rarely given to a first lieutenant.

After receiving his master’s degree from UW, he was drafted to report to the Air Force Academy in 1966 to develop a quality control program -- a first at the academy. After receiving his Ph.D., he returned to the academy as leadership course director on the faculty and was responsible for 25 officers and more than 1,000 cadets every semester.

He also was appointed to co-chair Project Expectations, to make recommendations on changes to the entire cadet experience. He personally briefed U.S. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and then the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors. His committee’s 40-plus recommendations were approved and implemented in total.

black and white photo of man in military uniform
Bob Zawacki’s retirement photo from the Air Force in 1975. (Zawacki Family Photo)

When he retired from the Air Force in 1975, Zawacki served as a professor of management at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (UCCS). He proceeded to act as department chair and later dean while at UCCS.

During his time in academia, Zawacki became an internationally recognized scholar and the author or co-author of 21 books and many articles. He was considered by many as the top expert in the world on applying organization development to information technology organizations.

In 1979, Zawacki was invited to the White House for a personal tour after being selected as one of the American Polish scholars to attend an international symposium in Warsaw, Poland, when it was still behind the Iron Curtain.

Zawacki began a third career in 1990 as an international consulting partner with the prestigious KPMG World Wide Consulting Co. The European Union listed him as one of the top paid consultants in Europe, having consulted with many well-known international organizations.

“For all his academic acumen, Dr. Zawacki’s first love has always been people. He is an exceptional person who invests in others without hesitation or conceit. He is humble, kind and extremely generous,” says one of his nominators. “It is common for previous students and colleagues to reach out to him for advice or want his involvement in some personal or professional venue.”

To view a complete list of previous Distinguished Alumni Award winners, visit www.uwyo.edu/business/alumni/distinguished-alumni.html.

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