Former U.S. Marine boxing champion finds a home in Operations
Donnie Myers, 58, a general repair worker at Dakota County Technical College, discovered life on a college campus in a somewhat unusual way. In 2000, Donnie was working as a shop foreman/mechanic at Stagecoach, a trucking company in Vermillion, Minn. That was the year he began teaching evening kickboxing classes at the college.
“My son, Joshua, who was 14 at the time, talked me into taking taekwondo classes at National Karate in Hastings,” Donnie said. Four years later, Donnie had earned his first-degree black belt. He went on to earn a second-degree black belt. As a teacher and fellow student, he always made a point of never exploiting his superior skill and experience during training. Even so, he was an outstanding competitor in sport tae kwon do, taking first place in his point-fighting age/weight class at the Diamond Nationals, the most prestigious karate tournament in the nation.
“Through my karate, I got the opportunity to teach kickboxing at DCTC,” Donnie said. “I met students, faculty and staff and found that I enjoyed the campus environment.”
John Worley tested Donnie for his black belt; Worley was tested for his black belt by Chuck Norris.
Born in Key West, Fla., Donnie spent his first years living on the East Coast. His father was in the U.S. Navy and served aboard nuclear submarines. Donnie’s family eventually settled in Arkansaw, Wis. He graduated from Arkansaw High School in 1972 and joined the Marines at the age of 17.
“I married my wife, Bonnie, right after basic training,” Donnie said. “We just celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary.” Donnie added that he is very thankful and feels blessed every day to have the wife God gave him. He believes Bonnie should get a huge trophy for being married to him for four decades.Donnie (far right) on Marine Corps Boxing TeamDonnie did his basic at Camp Pendleton. While stationed at Pendleton, he tried his fists at boxing, fighting in smokers, amateur bouts that went three 3-minute rounds. “I didn’t win my fights with skill,” Donnie recalled. “I wore out my opponents when they got tired punching me in the head. I’m Irish and I guess that means I can take a punch. I liked to fight on the inside and impose my will. My opponents always seemed at least six inches taller than me. I was what boxing experts call a banger.”
Two Marine boxing scouts saw Donnie fight and recognized pure heart when they saw it. They invited him to join the Marine Corps boxing team. For five and a half years, Donnie’s military occupational specialty had been baker/cook. Now that he was boxing full-time, he was re-designated Special Services. He traveled around the world to different bases, boxing as a 126-pound featherweight. While stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on the island of Honshu in Japan, Donnie was named the Featherweight Champion of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I was what boxing experts call a banger.”
— Donnie Myers
“At the end of seven years, the Marines wanted me to re-enlist,” Donnie said, “but Bonnie wasn’t going for it. Boxing kept me away from home. Bonnie had become both mother and father to our children. Boxing is a brutal sport, too. My nose had already been broken twice.”Donnie as a Marine with Bonnie and son, Donnie Jr.Donnie entered civilian life by joining his father and two brothers at American Trailer, a trucking firm in the Twin Cities. From there, he went to Schanno Transportation, where he worked for 22 years, 20 as a mechanic and two as a fleet coordinator.
“Schanno went through a change of ownership at the end of my career there,” Donnie said. “Schanno was a great place to work and raise a family, but things were different with the new owner.”
Stagecoach was Donnie’s next stop after he decided to leave Schanno. His evening kickboxing classes led to a night security position at the college. “I was working at Stagecoach and covering night security on the DCTC Rosemount campus at the same time,” he said. “I worked from eight to one at Stagecoach and then from two-thirty to eleven at the college. Those were some long days. I did that for three years.”
“Sparks will find a way.” — Donnie Myers
Luckily, a full-time position opened up in the college’s Operations department in 2008. Donnie applied and landed the job. As a general repair worker, Donnie is the department’s main welder. Donnie remembers his first instructions regarding the field. “The guy that taught me how to weld told me this: ‘The biggest part about learning how to weld is gritting your teeth.’ When you’re welding, burning metal to metal, you’re going to get sparks somewhere—they’ll go up your arm, down your shirt, in your boot—and you’re going to get burned. Sparks will find a way. You just have to grit your teeth, otherwise you’re going to break the arc and then all you’re going to have is duck poop.”
Donnie’s broad range of skills and Semper Fi, “Always Faithful,” mindset mesh well with an Operations department known for taking on large-scale projects on campus. “Teamwork is how we get things done,” he said. “We are blessed to have some very talented people in our department.”
Donnie owns a 5-year-old dog named Case, a female Australian shepherd he holds in the highest regard. Case and Donnie found each other through DCTC. “I brought my baby pygmy goats to our campus for an outdoor event called Goat Dookie,” Donnie remembers. “A woman was watching me for the longest time while I looked after children who were playing with the goats. After everyone left, she approached me and said she noticed how good I was with kids and animals. She asked me if I had a herding dog. I said no and she told me she had the dog for me. As it turned out, she raises herding dogs for people all over the country. Case was two when I got her.”
Today, Donnie and Bonnie reside on a hobby farm just outside Vermillion. An excellent carpenter as well as a master welder, Donnie built a full contingent of outbuildings on his property, including structures for his numerous goats and chickens. He has herds of Boer goats and pygmy goats along with one fainting goat named Jasmine. In early March 2013, Donnie welcomed 21 baby Boer goats to his farm. He’s expecting a wave of baby pygmies in April. He pointed out that Boer goat meat is the most frequently consumed meat in the world. Donnie’s chickens—he has Polish, Rhode Island reds, Silkies and Ameraucanas—produce oodles of eggs daily. The Myers have four grown children and 10 grandchildren total, seven by blood, Jasmine, Issaac, Lexi, Connor, Katie, Dylan, Joseph and Kayla, plus two adopted, Dante, 9, and Faith, 4. The Myers met Dante and Faith’s mother, Karen, through their church .
- What brought you to DCTC?
Kelly Murtaugh’s son was taking tae kwon do at the same karate school in Hastings. That’s how I met her and learned about DCTC. (Today, Kelly is the college’s vice president of academic and student affairs.)
- What skill set or knack makes you good at your job?
I am a good team player. I picked up that trait from a strong family life and my time in the Marines.
- What’s the hardest part of your job?
Learning new skills like how to mud and tape drywall. Whenever a new sheet-rocking job comes up, everyone says, “Let’s let Donnie do it.”
- What is your favorite pastime or hobby?
I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren. I also enjoy helping out at our church, Mount Olivet Assembly of God in Apple Valley. We recently started a food shelf at our church.
- What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
Raising four children to adulthood: Donnie, 38, Wendy, 37, Mellisa, 34, and Joshua, 33.
- What is the one thing you have not done that you would really like to do?
I would love to go to India and help my friend, Ernest Samson, build churches.
- Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?
I would love to go on a missions trip to China.
- What is your favorite season of the year?
- If you could learn to do anything, what would you learn to do?
I would like to learn to speak every language in the world.
- If you had to change your first name, what name would you pick?
That’s a tough one. I guess I would have to go with “Martin.”
- If you could be any kind of animal for a day or even a year, what kind of animal would you be?
Another tough one. An eagle would be okay.
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My 10-year-old grandson, Dylan, led me to my savior, Jesus Christ.