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Robert J. “Bob” Trebar, Ph.D.

The Lake Erie College community is saddened to report the death of Robert J. Trebar, PhD, who passed away Oct. 2, 2018.

From the time Dr. Trebar arrived on campus in 2004, students, staff and faculty members alike looked forward to crossing his path. A notoriously intelligent and effective professor, he was perhaps best known for his kind and genuine demeanor. Dr. Trebar’s ability to seamlessly impart wisdom in the context of any conversation was impressive, leaving those with whom he’d spoken a renewed sense of inspiration and better off for it.

As dean of the School of Business and professor of business administration, Dr. Trebar oversaw his school’s curriculum while teaching graduate courses on business strategy and a first-year humanities course known as “The Pursuit of Happiness.” He was particularly fond of the latter course, proudly noting his students’ personal growth throughout the semester as they placed critical lenses on concepts as essential as human happiness and wellbeing. His goal, he shared, was to make students question accepted views on all types of matters, learning all the while how to think for themselves.

The School of Business prospered under Dean Trebar’s leadership, increasing in number of undergraduate majors from two to nine while enrollment for the Parker MBA program more than quadrupled. Trebar encouraged his students to go beyond mere “problem-solving” to what he deemed the more valuable task of “problem-finding,” whether they be studying entrepreneurial behavior theory, health care business strategy, regional economic development, or something else altogether.

Entrepreneurs who have graced the halls of LEC in the past decade owe Dean Trebar their debt, too. In 2006, he authored a grant proposal that was awarded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, serving to establish the Lake Erie College Center for Entrepreneurship. At $1.3 million, it remains the largest foundation grant in the College’s history.

Though he taught part-time for many years, it wasn’t until mid-life that Trebar redirected himself to academia full-time. Before coming to Lake Erie College, he held a number of leadership positions in the business world. Much of his 25-year career was spent in the medical technology industry, most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Biomec, Inc., a start-up venture specializing in emerging diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. Prior to that, he was the Vice President of Marketing for Philips Medical Systems, a global leader in the medical imaging industry. Earlier in his career, Dr. Trebar held a number of positions with British Petroleum Ltd. and Brush Wellman, Inc. in the areas of finance, marketing, strategic planning, and mergers and acquisitions. He taught as an adjunct instructor at a number of Ohio colleges and universities, as well.

Dr. Trebar was often called on for his wisdom. He appeared before sub-committees of the US House of Representatives regarding the marketing of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. He consulted with organizations globally on the subject of business unit and corporate-level strategy, with clients ranging from Johnson & Johnson to the Cornell University School of Medicine. He even served as an advisor to the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Slovenia on the topic of entrepreneurship education and conducted entrepreneurship seminars for the Ohio Department of Development.

With accolades ranging from Faculty Member of the Year (Lake Erie College, 2008), Distinguished Marketing and Sales Executive of the Year (Cleveland Chapter of the Sales and Marketing Executives Association, 2007), and Memorable Educator (Ohio Magazine’s “Excellence in Education” issue, 2013), Dr. Trebar’s expertise as an educator and leader was unquestionable. He served on a number of for-profit and non-profit boards, as a member of the Cleveland Business Leaders Committee and as a member of the Education Committee of the Cleveland City Club, readily offering advice and comedic relief to those around him.

Trebar himself earned a BA in economics from John Carroll University, an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, and a PhD in higher education administration and policy from the University of Toledo, where he was named a Russell Scholar. He was published and presented widely on his primary research interest, the influence of the college experience on the entrepreneurial attributes of students.

Students and colleagues alike described Dr. Trebar as a fountain of wisdom who could effortlessly breathe life into complex concepts by way of real world examples. He was the type of supportive educator whose passion was contagious and who made those around him truly feel heard. He spoke often of his affection for the small, intimate atmosphere Lake Erie College offers that allows for the growth of relationships and challenging of assumptions.

In his address as the featured speaker for the College’s May 2017 graduate commencement, Dr. Trebar spoke candidly about the importance of nurturing one’s inner career. While society is most often concerned with the appearance of one’s outer career, he explained, the inner career is what truly offers peace.

“Your inner career is built by confronting your own demons,” he told the graduates. “You haven’t come this far to settle for being the best. Always work to be better than you used to be.”

Once asked what concept he would like every student to know and understand, Trebar had responded: “Life is short. Don’t let someone else define success for you.”

Dr. Trebar will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate enough to cross his path, at Lake Erie College and beyond. His mark on the College will be everlasting.

Dr. Trebar is survived by his longtime partner, Renee Kolecki, his sisters, Lois and Ann Trebar Ianetta (James Perry), and brother Don. Bob was much-loved by Don and Nancy Kolecki; Steve, Donna, Sarah, Erin and Evan Taylor, the Lintala family, and many long-time friends. He was the son of the late Lou and Ann (nee Geromi) Trebar.

In honor of Dr. Trebar’s passion for teaching, donations may be made to the Robert J. Trebar Scholarship Fund at Lake Erie College. Contributions to the scholarship fund may be sent to Lake Erie College, 391 W. Washington Street, Painesville, Ohio 44077, or by visiting

Celebration of Life Service in memory of Bob on Monday, October 8, 2018 at 1 PM at St. Christopher’s by-the-River, 7601 Old Mill Road, Gates Mills, OH 44040. Cremation following by DeJohn Crematory. Family will receive friends to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of Bob at THE ZEVNIK-COSIC FUNERAL HOME OF WILLOUGHBY HILLS, 28890 CHARDON ROAD (between Bishop Rd. and Rt. 91) SUNDAY 2-6 PM.



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Condolence Messages

  1. Sending my heartfelt condolences to Renee, Bob’s family, and to all who had the privilege of knowing him. I worked with Bob at Lake Erie College. He was a rare human being. His honesty and integrity were above reproach. He had the best sense of humor, and he was so very kind. Always so kind. Rest in peace, friend. You will be greatly missed.

  2. Holly Balogh Gould

    Dearest Ann and Lois. I am so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. I’m sorry I never met him in all the years I’ve known you, but Ann often talked of his amazing accomplishments. I would have loved to have had Bob as a professor. What an outstanding life and contribution he has made. I know his light will be with you and your family always. Love, Holly

  3. Dean Bob Trebar was a gentleman and a thoughtful colleague at all times during the four years that we worked together, 2007-2011. He was always the voice of reason and exuded a calm demeanor that gave people hope and confidence. I was floored to learn of his passing but glad that I came to know him and appreciate him. He will be truly missed.

  4. Bob Trebar was a fine friend of my youth. Those years were better for Young Bob, his spirit, his knowledge, his style and his leadership. Bob has left a lasting impression of the finest kind on all those he has touched and known. A fine friend, man and example: “Gone Too Soon”.
    May Bob Rest in Eternal Peace…
    ..and may there also be peace and comfort for his Family and Friends.

  5. prof. kim mcquaid

    Bob Trebar was an honest man in an often dishonest business called higher education, I worked with him on several search committees and was very impressed with his professionalism and utter lack of pretense. Julie ZIEMAK, a colleague of Bob’s in Accounting at LEC, Joins me in this expression of deep regret. We wish RENEE KOLECKI and Bob’s brothers and his sister our deepest regrets. In hopes that Bob was right about life after death, and that contributions shall be quickly made to the Robert J. Trebar Scholarship Fund at Lake Erie College 391 West Washington Street Painesville, Ohio 44077, we wish all Bob’s many friends and students all the best in their lives to come. May they be as successful as Bob’s was before his untimely death.

  6. Bill and Diane Schmenk

    Dear Don and Lois. I was extremely sorry and shocked to hear about Bob’s passing. Lois, I know you always spoke so highly of your brother. This will really leave a void in both of your hearts. He will definitely be remembered in our prayers.

  7. Renee, and all of Bob’s family, I am very sorry for your loss. Though I only knew Bob through conversations with Renee, I know the loss of a loved one is heartbreaking. Stay kind and warm to each other, and lean on each other through this difficult time because family is most important. My thoughts and prayers will be with all.

  8. I was sad to hear of Bob’s passing. He was too young. I enjoyed our lunch meetings together when I served as Dean of Business and Engineering at Lakeland Community College. Bob also served with me on the Steris Founder’s Scholarship Committee and he always contributed and provided insights and valuable information. I know Bob will be missed by many. God Bless him and may he rest in peace.

  9. Marien Kaifesh '10

    My condolences to the entire family of Dr. Trebar. He was the Dean of the Parker MBA program when I graduated in 2010. He was always interested in how our experience was and if we had an issue with anything, he was just a phone call away. One day, when he was visiting Parker Hannifin, I saw Dr. Trebar in our cafeteria and after some small talk, I asked him, “Are you related to Lou Trebar, the accordionist?” “Yes,” he said, “that’s my Dad.” I said, “I was on a charter flight to Slovenia back in 1972. I was only 11, but I remember your dad entertaining us by playing his accordion in the aisle of the plane.” Dr. Trebar said, “Yes! I was on that flight, too!” Rest in peace, Dr. Trebar.

  10. Laura Craft-Eummer - Phoenix, AZ

    My deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Dr. Trebar. I too am a Parker MBA graduate, 2010. I was truly inspired by his guidance in my Health Administration classes. He also supported me in the persuit of my MPH and often talked to me about coming onboard at Lake Erie College. My career truly blossomed under his tutelage. Please know that his legacy lives on in me….and many, many more very grateful former students. May God grant you peace as you (and we) forever remember Dr. Trebar.

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comments. They are so very comforting as we try to absorb this incredible loss to our families. He loved working at Lake Erie College and teaching was the most satisfying part. So glad he had the opportunity to work together with all of you. He was awfully special to us. Best regards.
      Renee Kolecki and the Kolecki/Trebar families.

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