CEO leaves legacy of trust, integrity, respect

Retiring ProAct CEO Steve Ditschler led the organization for some 20 years, coordinating an expansion from one to six locations and a fourfold increase in revenue.

“I think ProAct is a better organization today than it was when Steve came, and that’s something he should be very proud of,” said past Board Chair Jim Louwagie, who served in that position when Ditschler was hired, when he retired and at other points.

Former Production Director Dave Cavalier, who worked for the organization for nearly 40 years, said integrity was the key component with Ditschler, who worked hard to be a good example and was tuned in to the human side of the work as well. “He strived for strong stability and growing to serve as many people as possible.”

Genuine, approachable, sincere, trustworthy and a person of high morals who cared for his fellow man, was how former ProAct Manager Cathy McCoy described her longtime boss.

What I appreciate the most about many years of relationship with Steve is a sense of trust and a sense of respect,” said Sally Ogren, director of ProAct’s Red Wing facility. “And, those things were mutual and were always guiding the relationship.” The veteran leader said Ditschler had a heart for the mission and the business sense. “He knew how to pull the two together.”

Former executive assistant Heidi Hanson said Ditschler sees things in people and tries to make them the best they can be, both the clients and the staff.

Past longtime controller Pat McGuire said Ditschler had many difficult decisions to make over the years in the areas of compensation and benefits for staff and clients, the work environment and the organizational structure. While he initially didn’t always agree with his boss, upon further thinking he would find that the CEOs decisions were fair to the majority of the people involved.

Carolyn Dobis, who served as director of programs and services in Eagan for many years, said Ditschler made a positive impression early on, before he joined ProAct. At a retirement event for the previous CEO, Lou Besser, Ditschler asked Dobis if she would be applying for the position. He would not apply if she had an interest. She did not. “Now that shows a man of integrity. What a gentleman you are,” she said.

Dobis said she always appreciated Ditschler’s demeanor, knew that he respected her knowledge and gave her the freedom to run the programs knowing she would give her all for the clients and for ProAct.

“He was very organized, always wore a tie and was always thinking outside the box,” said Tim Dunleavy, a donor and vendor. “I think he always knew what he wanted to do and he just kind of brought everybody else into the picture to make sure it was satisfied.”

Ditschler’s colleagues at similar organizations said he was wise and thoughtful. He served for years as treasurer for the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation and was instrumental in forming the group years ago, merging past organizations to better serve people with disabilities across the state.

The former CEO is retiring to Mankato to spend time with extended family.

Steve and Merri Ditschler with retired Minnesota Twins player Tony Oliva.
Steve and Merri Ditschler with retired Minnesota Twins player Tony Oliva.