It was in the month of December 1959 that John Dockendorf was born into the world. Despite the fact that he spent his early years growing up in the Baltimore area, Dockendorf would later find himself making a greater impact elsewhere. Education was essential to him, as it was to many other children growing up in the Mid-Atlantic states, and after completing a hard education at a friend's school, he packed his skis and travelled to Vermont to study at the University of Vermont.

Early in his collegiate career, Dockendorf made a name for himself by standing out from the crowd. In 1981, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont, after putting in long hours and earning excellent grades during the 1970s. Dockendorf pursued responsibilities and pathways in leisure and park administration in the same manner that many others have, and he eventually found himself working as an assistant for a number of different professors in the field of recreation. This prompted Dockendorf to pursue graduate studies in the same field, and by the end of the next decade, he had earned a Master of Management, Hospitality from Cornell University and the School of Hotel Administration in 1992, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality from the University of Wisconsin. Atop his class once more, Dockendorf received the John E.H. Sherry Scholarship and served as student body president at Cornell in the school where he studied his discipline.

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