- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

OWOSSO, Mich. (AP) - Robert Doran was born and raised in Manhattan, but since becoming the historic facilities project director for the Owosso Historical Commission, he has worked to bring what he has learned from past experiences to the area and collaborate with other nonprofit organizations.

Doran has been working to bring collaboration between many Shiawassee County nonprofits since September, in hopes to rebrand the many historical assets the community has.

So far, he has been working with The Cook Family Foundation, Durand Union Station, the Corunna Historical Village, Shiawassee Arts Center, Steam Railroading Institute and Shiawassee County Historical Society. He has also partnered with such Owosso-based organizations as Owosso Main Street, the Curwood Castle, Comstock Cabin and many other organizations.

“There’s a push in the community to start looking around and finding collaborations,” Owosso Main Street Manager Josh Adams told The Argus-Press (https://bit.ly/1PDYxcD ). “Robert is another add-on to that. We are seeing a new wave of collaboration.”

“The only way to be successful is to look around you and see who you can help make successful,” Doran said. “We have amazing assets here.”

He said he is also looking into ways to partner with the local school districts to have curriculum-based tours of the historical sites and facilities the county has to offer.

“He brings a visibility and an awareness to the city as well as the surrounding cities,” Durand Union Station Executive Director Mary Warner-Stone said.

Warner-Stone added the collaboration is beneficial to all of the organizations as each has its own niche in the historical world.

“We are able to share our strengths with each other,” she said.

SAC Executive Director Piper Brewer said collaboration with the Historical Commission and SAC has already started, with new banner decorations at the Curwood Castle, and plans to bring more activities to Curwood Castle Park and the art center.

“(The collaboration) can help promote the county from within and become a destination for people outside the county,” she said. “Some of us are chomping at the bit. He is one of them; he has a lot of passion.”

Doran brings a multitude of experience to the community - and a different point of view - to help accomplish the goals set for community collaboration.

Since the age of 7, Doran wanted to be an opera singer and strived to make that dream come true, studying in the field at University of Miami until he was offered a position at the Miami Opera, where he sang for four years. He then moved to Boston, singing at the Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he worked with many of the greats, including Jessye Norman.

“I worked with amazing people,” Doran said. “I was a little baby, in my early to mid-20s.”

After he moved back to New York, he took a job on Wall Street in the marketing field. It was at this job he watched and witnessed the horrors of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.

“That changed my life completely,” he said. He added the company he worked for went from employing more than 2,000 people on Sept. 11 to around 100 people overnight.

“I sort of stumbled along at that job for about year,” he said.

After that, he became an artist. By 2005, he had three art shows in different states around the country. He later moved to Asbury, New Jersey, where he bought a hotel with a business partner. They renovated the hotel - gutting it completely - before opening it, as well as an art gallery, health spa and restaurant and lounge. His last stop before making his way to Owosso was working at Avadon Divers in Belize as the operations and dive director.

He accepted his position with the Historic Commission in September 2014, a natural fit for an artist in multiple different forms with a love for arts and history. He added his father was a history buff and most family vacations involved visiting historical locations and museums.

“I grew up with a great love of history,” he said. “All of my life (experiences) lead up to this job.”

Owosso City Manager Don Crawford said Doran’s past experiences can be useful for the county.

“His life experience has given him an insight to historic preservation and historic education/involvement of the community,” Crawford said, adding that Doran’s knowledge will be beneficial in helping educate county residents in local history.

Now, Doran can use all of his experiences to bring a unique perspective to Shiawassee County history.

“I feel like it’s a good thing to have an outside person come in and view this, because I see things people who have lived here all their lives don’t see,” Doran said. “I’m able to bring a fresh perspective.”

Adams agreed: “He brings in that new perspective that we need. It’s great to have that outside exposure.”

The community can also benefit financially from the new partnerships, he said, as the organizations can share projects and resources.

“It’s always good to get new ideas, and Robert brings that to the table,” Stone said. “We have been able to see things through his eyes.”

“We are opening the doors for people to see the history of (Shiawassee County),” Doran said. “It’s important for the community to get involved. This is their stuff.”

The Historical Communication is seeking volunteers to help in the areas where they are most passionate. For more information, call 989-723-2155 from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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Information from: The Argus-Press, https://www.argus-press.com

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