Former NISC president retires after 45 years

photo of Vern Dosch

For the last ten years, a change of clothes hung on the back of Vern Dosch’s door at National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), just in case he decided to take an unusual route to the office.

“We live on the river, so I would take my kayak about three miles down the river. And then, on the other side, I had an old Schwinn Mojave chained to a tree. I would unchain my bike, chain the kayak up and ride the rest of the way to the office. And, I’d do it the other way on the way home,” says Dosch.

A longtime member of Capital Electric Cooperative (CEC), Dosch dedicated 45 years of his life to the cooperative movement, impacting the lives of cooperative members in every role he took. Fresh out of college, he got his start in bookkeeping at CEC in 1975. In 1979, he went to work at Basin Electric Power Cooperative, where he started as a business manager and eventually become the head of accounts payable. In 1986, he began working at North Central Data Cooperative (NCDC), a predecessor of
NISC. He started as a business manager, before assuming the role of CEO in 1992.

“The truth is I got the CEO job because they felt sorry for me, not because I was qualified,” says Dosch with a laugh.

Two days before his interview, Dosch and a few of his colleagues traveled to Holyoke, Colorado, to provide a product demonstration. The demonstration required a lot of equipment, so they chartered a plane with Bob Watts of Capital Aviation. The morning
after their presentation, they boarded the King Air 200 for the return flight home.

“We got about 150-feet off the ground, and one of the engines failed. We didn’t have the speed to maintain the altitude, so we started going down,” recalls Dosch.

Watts, a World War II pilot, maneuvered the plane to safety, landing in a recently irrigated corn field.

“[The landing] broke out all the windows and tore the landing gear off,” recalls Dosch. “Bob turned around, and he was all cut up, and it looked like someone had thrown a can of creamed corn in his face. But, thankfully, we were all okay.”

Dosch remembers the muddy ground sticking to his feet when he got out of the plane. He believes the wet ground is what slowed the plane and saved their lives.

Dosch’s interview for the CEO position of NCDC was the following morning. With no available flights out of Denver and no rental cars in Holyoke, they rented a used van from a nearby Ford dealership.

“We drove non-stop, switching off drivers through the night. We got to Bismarck at 11 a.m., and I took a shower and went over for my interview,” says Dosch. “I think they felt sorry for me, but it worked.”

Dosch served as CEO of NCDC until the cooperative merged with Central Area Data Processing Corporation (CADP) in 2000, becoming NISC. He served as NISC’s chief operating officer until 2002, when he was named CEO.

Dosch led with humility, practicing the mantra, “Do the right thing, always.” He also led by example, creating a culture of compassion and cooperation, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

At the urging of a friend and colleague, Wally Goulet, Dosch wrote the book, Wired Differently, which demonstrates the impact servant leadership and the cooperative business model can have on an organization. His book has since been developed into a class, taught at the University of Mary, which helps increase awareness of the cooperative business model. A true servant leader, Dosch has never earned a profit from the book. Proceeds go to a benevolence fund that helps NISC employees in distress.

Under Dosch’s leadership, NISC helped electric cooperatives and their members nationwide by providing software solutions specifically tailored to their needs. These solutions enable cooperatives to improve efficiencies, implement new technologies, improve communication and save money — all of which helps cooperatives better serve their members. SmartHub, a NISC application, allows CEC members to manage their account, pay their bill, monitor utility use and receive notifications.

“Vern Dosch has made an indelible mark on the cooperative business model in North Dakota, as well as the entire country,” says CEC General Manager Paul Fitterer. “Under his leadership, NISC has proven that not only can this model be sustained by a fast-paced, world class software provider, but it can be done by partnering with its members to create something very special and sustainable.”

Today, Dosch’s change of clothes hang in a different location — his closet. In January, he began his next great adventure — retirement. Dosch says he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Lynne, their three grown children and six grandchildren. He also looks forward to crossing a few things off his bucket list.

“I want to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Grand Canyon — from rim to rim. I have a map on my wall of the national parks. My goal is — once they get these charging stations built out — I want to visit all of the national parks with an electric vehicle,” says Dosch. “But it’s mainly wanting to be a part of the kids’ lives. I’m really looking forward to that.”

In his final act as president and CEO of NISC, Dosch spoke at the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives 77th annual meeting. In his address, he said, “I feel like the luckiest guy to be able to have a career like I have, to be a part of watching NISC grow up and to be able to do it here in North Dakota. I consider myself to be very, very fortunate.”

Jim Rohn once said, “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.” A servant leader, teacher, writer and friend to cooperatives, Dosch has made an incredible impact on many lives. As he enters retirement, he leaves behind a legacy of cooperation and a blueprint on how to lead with humility, integrity and generosity of heart.

CEC congratulates Dosch on his retirement and thanks him for 45 years of dedicated service to cooperatives and their members.

Story by Krista Rausch

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