Retiring National City CEO and Case Western Reserve Trustee David Daberko Reflects on Career


David A. Daberko
David A. Daberko outside the Weatherhead School of Managment's Peter B. Lewis Building

"I've only had two employers in my life: National City and Case," jokes David A. Daberko 'MGT '70, referring to his experience as a graduate assistant during his first year in Case Western Reserve University's MBA program.

His "second" job lasted a little longer. At the end of this year, Daberko will retire from National City after 39-years of leadership, including over a decade as chief executive officer.

As he reflects on his career, Daberko recalls his learning experience as an MBA student as "an eye-opener to the investment world." With the guidance of stellar faculty like Dave Bowers and Scott Cowan he broadened his knowledge of the bond market and its tie to GNP economics.

These insights guided him through his early career in fixed-income securities at National City, where he began as a management trainee in 1968 while completing his graduate degree as a part-time student. Nearly four decades later, Daberko has emerged as a veteran leader, having skillfully led one of the nation's largest financial holding companies—headquartered in Cleveland—through a sea change of mergers, acquisitions, and market shifts. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was awarded the 2001 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Weatherhead School of Management.

As a long-time corporate leader and a Case Western Reserve University trustee since 1994, Daberko is also a qualified voice in the longstanding debate about the role of colleges and universities in rebuilding Cleveland.

"We have one choice: prosper or decline. Cleveland can no longer cling to the past. We need to be innovative and take some chances on the future" The key, he argues, is educating leaders, keeping them in Cleveland with new, interesting jobs, and learning from other cities that have prospered.

Without suggesting that retail giants are the only answer, Daberko points to what Target has done for Minneapolis and what Limited Stores has accomplished in Columbus. "In each case," he notes, "someone created something new that wasn't there before. It's all about new company formation. For the hundreds that we foster, Cleveland might just get a few Starbucks."

As the region's major research university, he notes, "Case is a key bridge between research and economic growth, particularly in the area of health care." Case Western Reserve's cultivation of the arts is also a key factor in maintaining a community in which a talented labor force wants to live. "The stronger the university is," he notes, "the better chance we have to keep people here."

Daberko, who served on the presidential search committee that brought Barbara Snyder to the university, is optimistic about Case Western Reserve's future: "President Snyder is a phenomenal, focused leader who has a deep history with the school. Together with the current group of deans, she has a tremendous understanding of the university's potential."

As he transitions to retirement, Daberko will continue his own commitment to the university as a trustee through at least 2011. The university will also continue to benefit from Daberko's financial legacy to the Weatherhead School of Management, where his philanthropy is focused on preparing the next generation of business leaders for success.

In addition, he plans to continue his board activities with RPM International, Inc, Marathon Oil Corporation, and OMNOVA Solutions, Inc. The already well-traveled Daberko will also enjoy exploring the world with his wife and spending time with his grown children and their families.