Take a walk inside the Robert. W. Plaster Center and you will likely notice the name accompanying the track: Harvey Dean. Dean is the founder of Pitsco Education, a global educational solutions provider focusing on innovative curricula and hands-on educational tools. Read on to learn how Dean’s past experience as a student, teacher, and track coach impassioned his successful business.
Dean grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, but has lived in Pittsburg for the last four decades. As a student himself, Dean was a self-proclaimed troublemaker: “I was that kid who makes (most) people smile and always seems to figure out his or her own way of learning… If it hadn’t been for a high school shop teacher who took me under his wing, I might have been a high school drop-out.”
Ironically, Dean went on to teach at a public school in Oklahoma following graduation. His first year of teaching coincided with his first year as a track coach: “I was 22 and right out of college, teaching at a small junior high and high school. They didn’t have a track program and I started one. We didn’t even have a track. They just ran around the football field.” Dean admitted that he struggled as a track coach early on: “I was a miserable failure and almost all of the kids quit.”
However, he didn’t accept defeat. After finding encouragement from legendary KU track coach Bob Timmons, Dean began to put responsibility on each athlete for their own success, while he guided their efforts: “I can’t win these track meets for you, you’ve got to be the person who owns this,” he recounted. Within 4 years, the team took second place in the state championship.
From his teaching years, Dean took a risk and moved into business in 1971. Having received poor service from major education supply companies as teachers, Dean and two other teachers began creating and selling their own educational kits as an after school venture. Dean remembers how the kits came together: “They had me writing this book about what they were doing in the classroom that was innovative… We decided to take the individual chapters and ideas, and turn them into kits for teachers.”
From a $50 investment each, the venture grew into Pitsco Education. Today, the company circulates curricula, software and equipment, teacher guides, books kits, DVDs and more to more than 35 countries and 8 million students and teachers annually.
Having built a local business with a global impact on students, Dean continues to invest in the community. As he mentioned in 2016 after receiving the Spirit of Pittsburg Award from the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, “We love having our business here, we love the community and we love our employees. We’ve been so blessed to be here.” The aforementioned award recognizes individuals who greatly impact the surrounding community with their services. Recently, Dean dedicated one such gift to the students of PSU, making a significant donation to help fund the Robert. W. Plaster Center. He was recognized last spring with the dedication of the Harvey Dean Track at the Plaster Center.
The facility was host of the 2016 NCAA Division II National Track Championships, and will host that event again in 2018. The 2017 and 2019 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships will also be held at the Plaster Center with this year’s event taking place March 3rd and 4th.
Student athletes aren’t the only ones who can use the facility. The Harvey Dean track is open to the public weekdays from 9:00 – 11:00 during PSU’s fall and spring semesters.