Ronald H. Dodd grew up in Ottawa, Illinois, located in the north central part of the state. During his teenage years, he participated in the high school band, cross-country and track teams while writing a column in the high school newspaper. He received is Bachelors Degree in Political Science and Physical Education at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa where he also a member of the Iowa Conference Championship Track Team. Subsequently, he completed his Masters Degree in Park and Recreation Administration at the University of Illinois-Champaign. He began his career at the Winnetka, Illinois Community House as Assistant Director and soon after followed with the Recreation Supervisor's position at the Skokie Park District where he managed the Back Door Teen Center attracting 1,000 teenagers on peak nights. Rock and Roll bands performing in Chicago on given weekends, would perform at the Back Door on Friday evening.
After Skokie, his experiences included the Ottawa, Illinois Youth Center, Elmhurst, Arlington Heights and Park Ridge, Illinois Park Districts, Dallas, Texas Park and Recreation Department where, as Assistant Director, he assisted with the decentralization of the Department. The City was divided in three zones and he was responsible for the downtown and most of the eastern part of the City. It included 106 parks, a 600 acre historic farm, Fair Park and two large lakes. During his tenure Dallas won the Gold Medal Award and he received two innovative project awards from the City of Dallas.
Dodd received a private foundation grant in 1987 to tour parks and gardens in England; and, in 1989 he accepted an invitation from the Chinese government to tour parks and gardens and lecture at various park departments and universities. During this tour he also presented a seminar for the Japan Park and Recreation Association and lectured at various military bases in Korea.
From Dallas, he was recruited by the Chicago Park District in 1987 to become its Deputy General Superintendent. In this position, he was responsible for supervising day-to-day operations and the 2,000 full-time employees at the City's 563 parks, 238 recreation centers, 87 swimming pools, 31 beaches, several conservatories and other large special facilities with a $120 million budget. He divided the City into 13 districts and 4 major regional park areas. Supervisors were hired for each district to work with leading citizens in their area to gain an understanding of the needs and interests of the people residing in that area. These opportunities were previously determined by the central office staff and sent out to each recreation center. When Chicago returned to its previous operational mode in 1990, Dodd interviewed and was appointed by the Board of Commissioners of the Joliet Park District, Joliet, Illinois as Executive Director where he remained until his retirement.
The system at Joliet was old and there was an urgent need to replace much of the infrastructure. However, in 1991, the state's governor sponsored legislation that virtually eliminated funding for infrastructure improvements for many of the Chicago area Park Districts. Dodd, along with other associates, lobbied the state legislature to restore the capital funding, and ultimately in 2003, they were successful. However, for nearly his entire tenure at Joliet, Dodd was required to finance capital improvements by fundraising, donations or non-matching grants. Despite the limitations, the task was accomplished, and in addition the new indoor ice arena and sports complex were constructed; as well as renovation of the environmental center. The Bird Haven Greenhouses and Conservatory was also restored, largely through private contributions. The facility was originally designed and constructed by the Lord and Burnham Co. and the restoration was completed using the original plans. Subsequently, at Dodd's retirement, the Park District Board of Commissioners named Bird Haven's central facility, The Ronald H. Dodd Showroom. Joliet won the National Gold Medal Award in 1993. Among his other accomplishments at Joliet were the formation of the Joliet Alliance for Youth, which brought thirty-five youth service organizations together to coordinate year-round program schedules; initiation of a youth summer lunch program; development of a flower island program which beautified street corners and small parcels around Joliet.
Dodd was actively involved in a wide array of professional organizations and was president or chairman of four of them; the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (1979); American Park and Recreation Society (1989); Great Lakes Regional Council (1981); and the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (1992).
Since 1992, Dodd has taught two classes as an adjunct professor at the University of St. Francis' nationally accredited Department of Recreation Administration. Upon retirement from the Joliet Park District, he became a Visiting Professor at St. Francis.
His unique practical application of skills, coordinated with a strong desire to research the latest methods and trends for leisure services, created a demand for him to accept invitations to share his knowledge and experiences both on university campuses and technical resource seminars. Until recently, he also chaired the National Symposium series initiated by Ford Hughes in St. James, Missouri.
In recognition of the University of Illinois-Champaign developing a Master's degree program for practitioners, Dodd established a scholarship in the Department of Leisure Studies at the University for a student pursuing a master's degree with an emphasis in public parks and recreation.
The National Park Foundation awarded him the prestigious Cornelious A. Pugsley Medal in 1990 for his nationally recognized accomplishments in administering local park and recreation agencies; and in 1992 the Illinois Park and Recreation Association selected him for the Robert Artz Award in recognition of his distinguished achievements to public parks and recreation in Illinois. In 1997 he received the National Recreation and Park Association highest honor when they presented him with the National Distinguished Professional Award.
He and his wife, Barbara, a Registered Nurse, have a married daughter, Lisa, son-in-law, Douglas, granddaughters Brittany and Mackenzie; married son, Eric, daughter-in-law, Leah, grandsons Jakob and Jordan, and granddaughters Hanna and Livia. He enjoys golf, landscaping and traveling.