A Cal State Long Beach football helmet sits on a shelf in attorney Don Dyer's office in Naples. This is not surprising--he has loyally supported his alma mater for more than two decades, raising more money for its teams than anyone.
"He's the kind of supporter you never tire of, he's always there for you," said Joe Harrington, the 49ers' basketball coach.
Dyer, 48, has received several outstanding citizen and service awards, but the honor of which he is most proud, announced last week, is selection to the 49er Athletic Hall of Fame.
"It's about as nice a thing as could happen to me," he said. He will be inducted Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Long Beach.
An autographed basketball, a photo of the 1980 league champion 49er football team, race car paintings and golf and marlin-shaped fishing trophies also share space on Dyer's shelves with books on personal injury cases, the drafting of wills and "The World's Best Dirty Jokes."
And half a dozen gavels are displayed--one used by Dyer's grandfather as head of the Idaho Bankers Assn., the rest by Dyer himself while presiding over various Long Beach civic clubs and organizations.
Nicknamed "Duck" because "when you grow up with the name Donald Dyer you don't have much choice," Dyer is multifaceted.
He was a founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1976 and, while a law partner of George Deukmejian in 1970, founded the largely forgotten Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Assn.
He is a former president of the Long Beach Century Club, which supports area athletes, and, appropriately, chairman of the Long Beach and Bolsa Chica chapters of Ducks Unlimited, a group that buys wetlands to keep flyways open for ducks. He has also been a planning commissioner in Signal Hill.
But his main interest has been 49er athletics, to which he has often devoted more time than to his law practice or endeavors as a real estate broker.
He has won or finished second in the university's athletic fund-raising competition in most of the last 17 years, and in 1986 he led a frantic drive that raised $300,000 in a month and saved the football program.
"It's a way to help the university, and I'm doing something I enjoy," said Dyer, vice president of the school's athletic foundation.
Occasionally, he has been an outspoken critic of the university's administrators. In 1987, during the school's last financial crisis, he said the college was the "laughingstock of the athletic world," and resigned for two years from the 49er Athletic Foundation. He is now the foundation's vice president.
Tall, full-faced and gray-haired, Dyer prefers striped shirts, blazers and khaki-colored trousers. But he discounts his appearance and personality--he is friendly and well-liked--as factors in his persuasiveness.
"I've had to work at (fund-raising)," he said. "I don't think anybody likes to ask people for money. In the beginning (late 1960s) it was hard, arm-twisting work. Knocking on doors, making phone calls. After you build a base and take care of those people and let them know what's going on, you should be able to renew them. It gets easier and you get comfortable with it."
Dyer's childhood was spent in Payette, Idaho, where he chased balls hit in a cow pasture by his neighbor, Harmon Killebrew, who became a Hall of Fame baseball slugger.
After moving with his family to Northern California and then Glendale, Dyer lettered in basketball and tennis at South Gate High School. At Cal State Long Beach, where he did not play varsity sports, he earned a degree in business administration and was named outstanding graduating senior. In 1966 he graduated with honors from UCLA Law School.
He also follows UCLA football but emphasized, while driving to Costa Mesa for a breakfast meeting of the Orange County Bruin Boosters last week, "My real loyalty has always been with Long Beach State."
He had chosen to attend the breakfast because the guest speaker was an old friend, Dave Currey, a head football coach for the 49ers from 1977 to 1983 and now a UCLA assistant.
"I take a lot of pride in my relationship with coaches and trying to keep them here," said Dyer, who has had a say in selecting 49er coaches over the years. "It's been frustrating to be a training ground for great coaches and have them go elsewhere." The most notable who departed were basketball coaches Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson.
After the breakfast that morning, Currey talked about Dyer: "You always knew he was there. He knew the rules. He never came to me with something out of line. He would get frustrated, but never said let's do it the wrong way."
Dyer and Tarkanian, now coach at Nevada Las Vegas, used to run together five nights a week. "He was my No. 1 guy the whole time (five seasons) I was there," Tarkanian said this week. "He just did everything he could to help us out. He was tireless."
Two of Cal State Long Beach's most renowned athletes, Ed Ratleff and Jeff Severson, were among many befriended and helped by Dyer.