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Ask most young kids in Salina and they will tell you they don’t plan to make their home in Kansas when they get older. Philips Lighting Plant Director Dan Mendicina hails from Salina, and has lived in New York, West Virginia, and Texas, but will tell you that even though at times he was afraid to admit it, he always knew Salina was where he belonged. Mendicina’s father was in the military and started his family here after meeting his wife at Marymount College. Mendicina has fond memories of a youth spent playing sports, going to KWU football games, and the picnicking along the Smoky Hill River.
“It didn’t take much to make us happy – just spending time along the river with family,” Mendicina said.
Mendicina graduated from Salina Central and heard from many friends that they couldn’t wait to graduate to get away from Salina. Mendicina felt differently.
“I was always of the opinion that Salina’s a pretty good place and I wouldn’t mind raising a family here,” he said. “I always thought someday I’d like to get back to Salina.”
Mendicina went to Wichita State, where he played football, and met his wife, Linda, in Salina between his sophomore and junior years. After a severe injury ended his playing career, he returned to Salina for therapy and reconnected with Linda, and began working for Philips Lighting, where he never dreamed he’d end up as the Plant Director.
“I noticed in the Salina Journal that they were hiring and my intentions were to work at Philips as a temporary job. I went to work in 1987 as a laborer, and have worked in multiple capacities at Philips,” he said. He hoped to earn a little money then figure out what to be when he “grew up”. In 1988, he married Linda and he worked in Paris, Texas for a time before returning to Salina to be the Operations Manager and then Salina Plant Director.
Along the way, Mendicina has received a Bachelor of Arts from Kansas Wesleyan (’94). In 1998, he returned to WSU for his degree from the Frank Barton School of Business. Finally, in 2002, Mendicina earned his MBA from Kansas Wesleyan University.
Growing up, Mendicina wanted to be a history teacher and football coach, and he’d often sit in on KWU classes as part of a program with USD 305. During that time, he became very close with Dr. ? Rice and Dr. Sheila Drake, who was with the secondary education program at the time. Then after a chance meeting at Wal-Mart with Dr. Carol Ahlvers, he enrolled in the MBA program.
“What a fantastic lady,” he said of Ahlvers. “My career was really starting to launch at Philips, she gave me her number and within a week, I was signed up. It was the best choice I ever made.”
Mendicina said that the professionalism of the professors was a huge selling point for him, but also the tradition of the school.
“If any institution survives over 100 years, there’s a good reason why they’re still in business,” he said. “One of the attributes that makes Kansas Wesleyan so strong is that they’ve learned how to change and adapt through the years.”
Not only was he impressed with how professional everyone was, but the small campus that allowed one on one attention. He noted that all of his MBA professors were extremely influential, helping him succeed in his current position at Philips.
“Not only did they spend classroom time with me, but personal time with me and really helped me become a better manager at Philips,” he said. “I was able to throw some things on the table of what I was going through at Philips and they helped me tremendously.” Mendicina was able to manage his courses, family, and full-time work through KWU’s flexibility and ease of scheduling. “I really enjoyed that time,” he said.
In about seven years, he said, about 15 Philips employees have been through the program, but the entire school is important to Salina, Mendicina said. As Chairman of the Salina Chamber of Commerce, he has had a chance to see the University from the other side of the coin as well.
“They’ve been an anchor for many years,” he said. “If you look at the individuals that not only go to school there but the administration, and the can-do attitudes and the behaviors that not only influence the institution but the community.” Mendicina tries to integrate that into his employees.
“It’s something that we really preach here at Philips.”
Mendicina has been married to Linda since 1988 and they have a son, Dylan, and a daughter, Paige. Dylan is currently an intern at Philips and a junior in college, while Paige will be a senior at Salina South High School.