From the Baseball Diamond to the Boardroom

From the Baseball Diamond to the Boardroom

Bobby Kocol

Bobby Kocol's journey from the baseball diamond to the boardrooms has been one defined by perseverance, leadership and a steadfast commitment to giving back. As he looks back on a career spanning over four decades, he attributes much of his success to the solid educational foundation and support systems he received at Mississippi State University.

His decision to pursue higher education led him to Mississippi State University, where he was recruited to play for the Diamond Dawgs baseball team. Under the mentorship of Coach Ron Polk, Bobby not only honed his skills on the field but also embraced the values of teamwork, discipline and determination that would shape his future endeavors.

During his time at MSU, Bobby distinguished himself as an Academic All-American in baseball. As team captain, he led his team to the 1979 College World Series, earning the title of Most Valuable Player. In the classroom, Bobby actively sought out a diverse range of business courses covering various topics to expand his knowledge.

“The broad educational background I received at MSU played a pivotal role in my career because it provided a skillset applicable for numerous opportunities in the corporate environment,” said Bobby, who graduated from MSU in 1979 with a business administration degree.

He began his career in Laurel with General Motors before being offered a position that took him back to his home state of Florida and later to Colorado. His progressive career moves positioned him as the Chief Financial Officer at StorageTek, which was eventually acquired by Sun Microsystems in a four-billion-dollar transaction under his leadership.

Bobby went on to serve as CEO of the start-up Innovative Switchgear Solutions, a leading-edge manufacturer of electrical distribution switchgear. The company garnered industry acclaim and was eventually acquired by Eaton Corporation—a testament to Bobby's visionary leadership and entrepreneurial spirit.

Throughout his 40-year career spanning multiple business endeavors and executive leadership roles, Bobby delivered keynote corporate messages worldwide, collaborated with Wall Street institutions and Fortune 500 corporate executives, mentored college students, and occasionally stepped up to the plate as a fill-in preacher.

He also served on the boards of directors for multiple companies, including the Alliant Group, Copan Systems, Incentra Solutions, and Avista Adventist Hospital, among others. After retiring, Bobby focused his time and efforts on finishing his book, Diamonds, Deals, and Divine Guidance, in which he shares his story of self-discovery and triumph over adversity by embracing values with lasting impacts. Scheduled to be released this spring, his book details his time as a student and Diamond Dawg baseball player at MSU.

While Bobby’s life and career have taken him far from campus, his dedication to supporting the Bulldogs has endured. His wife Lindy also shares his affection for MSU. The two were high school sweethearts, so Lindy frequently visited Bobby during his time at MSU and grew to love the Bulldog family as much as he does.

“There is a strong sense of tradition and community at MSU that you feel the moment you step on campus. I’ve always felt embraced by the people and atmosphere here,” said Lindy. “Bobby and I both made lifelong friends at MSU. There is a spirit of comradery and belonging that runs deep in the MSU family and leaves an imprint on your heart.”

The couple were engaged in May after Bobby’s junior year at MSU and set the date for their wedding to take place the following summer. When Bobby and his teammates made it to the College World Series, the newlyweds found themselves honeymooning in Omaha with their fellow Bulldogs.

The couple regularly visits their “home” at MSU to encourage students and cheer on the Dawgs. They have maintained lasting friendships with many fellow Bulldogs, whom they credit for much of their success. They remain committed to giving back to MSU and to the community that has shaped them.

“We’ve been very blessed, and I was fortunate to have the support that came through the connections I established at MSU—teammates, classmates, professors, and others. I stay in touch with many of them, which is really special,” said Bobby. “MSU provided me a solid academic foundation and paired it with incredible experiences and people—together, the whole MSU package helped shape my life tremendously.”

Returning to campus, Bobby found himself not only reminiscing about his own collegiate experiences but also seeking ways to pay forward the opportunities he was afforded. Together, they embarked on a mission to make a meaningful impact on the lives of future generations of students at MSU.

“I’m a firm believer in the old phrase ‘you learn, you earn, you return,’ and being in that last phase, it’s time for me to return, with my time and the lessons learned in my career,” said Bobby.

Accordingly, the couple recently made a significant commitment to establish the Bobby and Lindy Kocol Endowed Scholarship in Business at MSU. Candidates for the Kocol Scholarship will be full-time students in the College of Business who maintain a GPA requirement with preference given to those with financial needs, those involved in campus and/or community outreach, and those with an interest in entrepreneurship programs.

“Scholarships are important because they give students a way to get an education that can change their life,” said Bobby, who is grateful for the baseball scholarship he received to help him earn his education at MSU. “Education is invaluable. It’s something that can’t be taken away. We’re grateful to share this opportunity with others.”

For Lindy, the scholarship represents more than just financial assistance—it's a symbol of hope and opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the means to pursue higher education. "We've been blessed and feel it's our turn to be a contributing part of the MSU community that knows how to take care of students," said Lindy. "We created this scholarship so we can have a meaningful impact on the lives of students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to MSU."

Bobby echoed her sentiments, recognizing the impact their MSU experiences had on their own lives. “Success isn’t accomplished alone. The education and support I had and continue to have from my MSU connections have made it possible. We simply want the next generation to have the same opportunities for success, to support others’ dreams and aspirations, especially at a place like MSU."

The Kocols also applaud the example set by Ron Polk, Bobby’s former baseball coach at MSU, who, despite being a tenacious Bulldog on the diamond, has always prioritized thoughtful traditions, kind sentiments, and a quiet generosity. Polk’s reasoning to anyone who asks why he gives so much back into the program and his players, has always been, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“For Lindy and me, that’s what giving back is all about,” said Bobby, reflecting on all the legendary mentorship Coach Polk shared with him.

As Bobby and Lindy look ahead to the future, they envision a legacy of generosity that transcends monetary value—a legacy built on the belief that education is the cornerstone of opportunity and that giving back is not only a privilege but a responsibility.

“In the same way we’ve been inspired by our MSU journey—even after Bobby ‘s graduation—we hope it will be a catalyst for continued positive change that inspires others to pursue their dreams and be successful,” said Lindy. “We hope they remember the support and resources they gained from MSU and want to bring it all full circle for someone else.”