(Mar. 2, 1936 – June 27, 2016). James E. Dora Sr. was born in Vincennes, Indiana, the youngest of four children to Peter Alexander Dora and Marie Claire Schmidt Dora. He graduated from Purdue University in 1958, where he was a member of its Delta Delta Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

In 1962, while living in Terre Haute, Indiana, Dora began his career in the hotel industry by founding and chairing General Hotel Corporation. His first venture included opening the Holiday Inn in Terre Haute, Indiana. From there, he developed numerous award-winning properties throughout the state under licenses from IHG, Hilton, and Marriott brands.

Shortly after arriving in Indianapolis in 1965, Dora became engaged in civic affairs. He sat on numerous boards and committees, notably on the Capital Improvement Board of Managers (CIB) from 1971 to 1993, serving as president from 1985 to 1993. During his 22 years with the CIB, Dora helped grow the city into the “The convention destination of the Midwest” by supporting the development of the INDIANA CONVENTION CENTER in 1972, MARKET SQUARE ARENA in 1974, and the HOOSIER DOME in 1984.

Still fully engaged with his business, Dora actively participated in the International Association of Holiday Inn Owners and served as its chairperson in 1982. In 1984, his General Hotel Corporation developed and operated the 273-room Crowne Plaza Holiday Inn at UNION STATION. The hotel offers 26 rooms inside 13 authentic Pullman train cars. Dora and his wife Shirley launched the James and Shirley Dora Foundation in October 1990 to provide educational grants to its hotel employees and their families.

Dora was active on a number of civic and corporate boards, including Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, INDIANAPOLIS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, CORPORATE COMMUNITY COUNCIL, DOWNTOWN INDY INC., INDIANA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, the 500 FESTIVAL, American United Life Insurance Company, BANK ONE, and the MAYFLOWER CORPORATION.

Additional contributions to the city included work with the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and then-Mayor Richard Lugar’s Waterways Beautification Task Force (the group tasked with the redevelopment of the area along the Indianapolis canal from 21st Street to Washington Street). Dora was a two-time recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash Award.

Dora remained active in multiple leadership roles at Purdue University. He served as chairman of the President’s Council, as an “Old Master” (a cohort of successful and outstanding individuals invited to share ideas with the student body established in 1950), and on the Advisory Board for the Restaurant, Hotel, Institutional, and Tourism (RHIT) School. He also cochaired a complete renovation of the Sigma Chi fraternity house, including a $7.4 million fundraising campaign in 2004.  For his contributions, Purdue honored Dora with an honorary doctorate degree and one of its highest honors given to individuals whose commitment, service, and vision to the university have greatly benefited the institution—the Purdue Order of the Griffin. Vincennes University awarded Dora an honorary doctorate degree as well.

Revised November 2023

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