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Remembering an ONU legacy: James F. Dicke

The ONU community remembers loyal supporter James F. Dicke. (photo/

The ONU community remembers loyal supporter James F. Dicke. (photo/

An enduring relationship with Ohio Northern University alumnus that lasted nearly three quarters of a century came to an end Nov. 11 with the death of James F. Dicke in his New Bremen, Ohio home at the age of 94 years old.

Dicke’s name forever lives on campus with the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration, James F. Dicke Hall and The Dicke House, the official home for the university’s president and family.

Ironically, Dicke never graduated from ONU. However, he cherished the time taking classes on campus in the early 1940s before joining many of his generation in military service during World War II. He was a lieutenant instructor in the Army Air Corps.

After serving his country Dicke returned to his Ohio roots and married his beloved wife, Eilleen, in 1942. The couple would raise two sons, Jim II and Dane, and their love lasted until 2015 when Eilleen died after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Professionally, Dicke worked with his father and two siblings to found Crown Controls Company, originally a sales distributorship for home coal furnace controls. When his father died in 1952, James took over the company’s ownership and built it into a successful manufacturer of small electric forklifts.

Today, Crown Equipment Corporation has more than 8,500 employees and is the world’s largest manufacturer/distributor of forklift equipment. With his grandson, Jim Dicke III, serving as president, James was the company’s chairman emeritus until his death. He had a commitment to serving others and was extremely interested in several projects that helped the company grow and prosper.

Jim was an incredibly kind and generous man,” remarked Randy Niekamp, the company’s vice president of human resources.

In 2001, James and Eilleen provided the lead financial gift for the construction of a new business building on the ONU campus, and the structure was officially dedicated as James F. Dicke Hall on Sept. 13, 2004. The institute’s business college was renamed the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration on April 2, 2007 to honor his longstanding support to the institution.

The Dickes provided financial support for the building of the Dicke College. They were active participants in its design and how it was furnished,” said ONU James F. Dicke College of Business Administration Dean John Navin. “The Dicke family continues to be a loyal supporter of ONU students and faculty.”

The university honored Dicke with an honorary doctorate in 2000, the same year that The Dicke House was opened on campus.

Day after day, Dicke provided guidance, leadership and support to his colleagues, friends and family. He is survived by several family, many loving caregivers and a collection of friends who returned the humble offerings they received from James and Eilleen Dicke.  

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