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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Photo of Ambassador Robert Kohorst talking to students at the University of Dayton

From UD Student to U.S. Ambassador

The 2023 University of Dayton Alumni Awards were presented Sept. 16. Five honorees returned to campus for the events this year, including Ambassador W. Robert Kohorst ’75.

But as this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Ambassador Kohorst returned to Dayton a few days early and met with some of the current students. Ambassador Kohorst previously served on the School of Business Administration’s advisory council. He also financially supported the school and Flyer Enterprise over the years, so it was no surprise that he was willing to continue giving back to UD by sharing his life experience with students while in town.

Among the students he met with were first-year students, along with senior capstone students.

“What do you want to know?” Kohorst said.

And with that, he began telling the 31 people in the room about his very true — if unexpected — journey from UD student to U.S. ambassador.

As he tells it, he wasn’t expecting to attend the University of Dayton. His parents didn’t have a lot of money, so he only had funds to apply to one school. He was admitted, but the price tag was too much for his family to swing and he began looking for alternative options. The University of Dayton was one of the few colleges still accepting applications, so he applied and was accepted. He packed his bags for Ohio when he discovered his family plus a work-study program could cover tuition.

That first year, he lived in University Hall, an off-campus building purchased by the University in 1960. Located at the corner of Gettysburg and Germantown Pike, the building was originally built to help tuberculosis patients in the 1920s. In a strange coincidence, Kohorst learned from his mother that he had an uncle who died in that hospital years before he ever lived there as a first-year Flyer.

Nearly every day, Kohorst and his classmates boarded one of the original UD Flyer buses and made the 20-minute commute to campus for class. As he progressed, he moved closer to campus, living at an Alberta Street home during his senior year.

“I went to most of my classes. We didn’t have the RecPlex, but we had the Field House,” Kohorst said. “I went there every day. Basketball was just as much fun then as it is now.”

In 1975, he graduated from UD with an accounting degree, then earned his law degree. He practiced law for a few years, but it wasn’t for him, so he pivoted into real estate. He wanted to live his life based on a few principles, and that meant working for himself.

Kohorst wanted to maximize flexibility in his schedule so he could do what he wanted. That meant building a career he was passionate about whenever possible and spending as much time with his family as he could. He wanted to associate himself with good partners and take a risk from time to time. He would course correct, if necessary.

“You make mistakes, and you move on.”

“You make mistakes, and you move on,” Kohorst told the students.

Kohorst also returned to his accounting roots by meeting with the Flyer Enterprises executive team, Flyer Consulting students, and the two students who have restarted the Flyer Angels program.

His advice to them was the same as the students earlier in the day.

“Every successful person failed at some point before,” Kohost said.

All of Kohorst’s successes — and failures — eventually led him to a place he didn’t expect while earning his UD degree.

Shortly after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Kohorst, a long-time Republican, mentioned to officials he wanted to help. He didn’t hear anything back for such a long time, he figured nothing would come of his offer. Until one day he got a call asking if he’d like to be an ambassador, and if so, where. His answer was Croatia.

“I thought France would be cool, but when I thought about Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as my predecessors, I wasn’t sure Bob Kohorst really fit,” Kohorst said. “So, I went with Croatia.”

He spent three years overseas, the last during the pandemic, supporting the interests of the United States and its citizens.

“If you can do something nice, just do it,” Kohorst said. “Being helpful and friendly to people goes a long way.”

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