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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Steve's Run originated 40 years ago

The 40th “Original Road and Trail Race,” aka Steve’s Run, starts a half-hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, in downtown Dowagiac during Summer in the City festival weekend.

As many as 1,000 participants are expected to compete in the 10K run, 5K run, 5K walk or 1K fun run.

Race Director Kate Dorner, Southwestern Michigan College human resources director and wellness committee chair, said 818 runners were timed in 2013.

Last year’s 10K winner, with 34:08, was third-time competitor Miguel Luzano, 20, a Mishawaka High School graduate and IUPUI sophomore who survived testicular cancer diagnosed at 17. Leah Busse of Kent City won the women’s 10K title with 42:05.

Participants who pre-register before 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, are guaranteed a blue Steve’s Run core performance shirt.

SMC and $7,000 donor Fifth Third Bank are the premier sponsors for the 40th race.

It costs $1 for the fun run, $20 for the 5K run or walk and $25 for the 10K.

Those who wait until Friday night or Saturday morning pay $30 for late registration.

Packet pick-up and late registration take place at Dowagiac City Hall, 241 S. Front St., on July 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and on July 26 from 7 to 8 a.m.

Music became a major element of Steve’s Run thanks to the Boston Marathon.

Former SMC dean of sports education Ron Gunn was running in it when “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas floated out of a window 23 miles in to revive him.

Boom boxes once played cassette tapes along the course because music stirs the soul like a marching band at a football game.

Thanks to technological advances in such devices as iPods and MP3 players, personalized playlists power today’s runners with preferred tracks at their fingertips.

Recognized as one of the 10 best vacation runs in the country, it started in 1972.

This will be the 24th known as Steve’s Run after previous permutations as the Road and Trail Race, the Bud Lite Run and the Nike-Fair Store Run, plus a two-year hiatus.

Gunn, who coached Roadrunner cross country teams to five national titles, worked with Steve Briegel, whose father, David, was college president.

“Steve was my statistician and announcer,” Gunn said. “Steve fought a very courageous battle, but lost. I went to Dave wanting to do something to honor Steve. We had a run at Indian Lake in his honor.”

The next year the Road and Trail Race was resurrected as Steve’s Run, with Gunn reasoning, “A lot people did not know Steve, but everybody knows somebody touched by cancer who fought the same brave, determined battle.”

Steve’s Run is challenging in the “dog days of July,” offering an unusual assortment of highways, a golf course (golfers pause and applaud) and rugged trails with hay bales and log obstacles around the 240-acre campus.

Paul Mow, SMC theatre director and a former New York opera singer, will render the national anthem at the starting line at Beckwith Park.

The event concludes south of the Front Street central business district in Lions Park.

Stained glass awards, created each year by Al Potter, ended with his death Nov. 3, 2013, at 77.

“This year, the two overall winners of the 10K — the top female and the top male — get a $25 gift card to New Balance in Granger, a $15 gift card for Road ID and their pick from a polo, sweatshirt and jacket or fleece pullover,” Dorner said. “5K overall winners get $15 Road ID gift cards and their option of a shirt.”

Participants can honor a cancer survivor or victim and support cancer research by buying $5 fire-up signs placed in Riverside Cemetery, where the run passes Steve’s grave.

SMC’s Steven Briegel Scholarship Fund and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Fund divide proceeds.

To register or to purchase fire-up signs, go to

Camille and David Briegel for 24 years have presented an annual Steven Briegel Memorial Scholarship at Union High School — this May to Jennifer Schaus.

Steve, who died March 1, 1990, after a 5 ½-year battle, graduated fifth in the DUHS Class of 1986 and from SMC in 1988.

He golfed and played basketball for the Chieftains.

A group of classmates runs in his memory.

Four principles for success

Four principles tested by 50 years guiding Southwestern Michigan College’s growth offer graduates building blocks for successful, rewarding lives, Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews told SMC’s 47th Commencement May 3 in the Charles O. Zollar gymnasium on the Dowagiac campus.

Never, ever give up in the face of adversity, which Mathews demonstrated in 1964 when a consultant concluded the dream of a Cass County community college was not feasible.

“If a project is worth taking on, it’s worth fighting for,” Mathews said. “This applies to personal, financial or any other challenges. Equally important, surround yourself with people who share this principle.”

Second, aim higher than merely making money.

“It’s admirable to be ambitious and to become financially stable, but prioritize so you spend a portion of your income and time on non-paid community service,” Mathews said. “For instance, trustees serve without pay. I believe each and every trustee, as well as 16 others who served over the past 50 years, look back, as I have, on their lives and the legacy of this college with great satisfaction and pride no amount of money could match. The world’s wealthiest people, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, will tell you their greatest satisfaction was not making money, but using it for public service projects. The greatest goal in life, in my opinion, is leaving your community better than you found it. Don’t worry about changing the whole world. Be concerned about making your little corner better.”

Third, “Always be truthful, honest and honorable,” Mathews said. “No project is worth sacrificing your integrity. As you look back at your life, be able to have pride in how you accomplished your goals.”

Finally, believe in yourself.

“Don’t ever let anyone say you cannot succeed,” said Mathews, who received a standing ovation. “A high-school dropout from northern Michigan became chairman of the board of this college for 50 years. You can do anything.”

“It’s hard to believe it’s been half a century,” Mathews reflected. “I was 34 years old. Our seventh and current president, Dr. David Mathews, was 4. Anyone under 55 does not remember when this campus was a cornfield.”

“In the early 1950s, many job opportunities required no more than an eighth-grade education. By the late ’50s a shift was taking place. A high school diploma was beginning to be a requirement for many jobs. By the early 1960s, the post-World War II technology revolution was gaining momentum. It was becoming apparent a high school diploma would not be adequate for better jobs. Hence, the rise of the community college movement,” Mathews said.

“In Cass County, 41 percent of the adult population had an eighth-grade education or less. Cass County struggled economically and educationally. To some of us, this presented a great opportunity to take a giant leap forward. Because of our county’s small population, tax base and other demographic challenges, it was obvious a community college would not be an easy task — but what in life worthwhile is easy?”

Mathews has written a soon-to-be-published book chronicling SMC’s history.

All proceeds go to the college foundation to help students.

A citizens committee of educators, school board members, business professionals and lay people studied the feasibility starting in January 1964.

A Western Michigan University professor was engaged as a consultant.

“We soon realized there were factions, mostly outside Cass County, who did not wish us well. Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed where opposition would come. Our consultant dropped a bombshell in the winter of 1964. He did an interim report on his own. Fortunately, he sent an advance copy to Father O’Leary, who brought the devastating report to my office. He concluded this college would be hard-pressed to attract an enrollment of 300 students in five years. Needless to say, I was furious. I wrote a blistering rebuttal. It was one of the strongest cases I ever made, but I was very apprehensive. Why would the study committee follow the advice of a 34-year-old optometrist over the advice of a highly respected consultant and university professor?”

But the panel voted unanimously to forge ahead.

“What our consultant lacked was a grasp of our never-give-up attitude,” Mathews said. “Our committee had a dream. He failed to understand we were not going to let a consultant turn that dream into a nightmare without a fight.”

On Aug. 12, 1964, Mathews and two others drove to Lansing for a signing ceremony.

“The hard work of the campaign to get voter approval” on Nov. 3 “was about to begin,” he said. “The citizens of Cass County voted by a nearly 2-1 margin to establish a community college with millage for financial support. I was one of six elected to the founding board from 11 candidates. Two weeks later, the new Board of Trustees met and elected me chairman and Barbara Wood Cook secretary. Barb and I are the sole surviving founders.

“We proved them wrong. The first-year class, 1966-67, we had a fulltime equivalent enrollment of 430 students, with a head count of 948. This college has had a positive influence on the educational, economic and social fabric of this whole area. I shudder to imagine what it would be like if Southwestern Michigan College had not been founded. That 41 percent of adults with an eighth-grade education is 2.4 percent today. Few outside this community look down their noses at Cass County as many did in 1964. Instead, they look in admiration at the transformation.”

Four students — Hannah Davis of Coloma, Theresa Lingle of South Bend, Ind., Mary Kate Stewart of Dowagiac and building trades instructor Larry Wilson of Niles — graduated with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.

Two former presidents attended, Russell “M” Owen and David C. Briegel.

SMC retirement luncheon

Southwestern Michigan College honored five retirees with 114 years service June 30 at a luncheon in the Student Activity Center of the Charles O. Zollar Building on the Dowagiac campus.

“It’s a testimony to the lives, energy and commitment our retirees put in that they have so many people come to wish them well,” SMC President Dr. David M. Mathews said.

Dr. Naomi Ludman
Developmental Studies Director
Communications Department Chair
35 years

When SMC embraced developmental studies in the 1970s to bolster underprepared students, it was a relatively new concept in the country.

“When the Dale A. Lyons Building was built, there was a developmental education lab where the choral music area is now,” Mathews said. “It grew to be a hugely important component of achieving our very mission of ‘knowledge for all.’ If our students are not successful, we are not successful. Because of the variety of life circumstances students have brought to us for almost 50 years, it remains the right thing for us to do to figure out how to give those students what they need,” particularly encouragement.

Dr. Naomi Ludman

George Dierickx
Director of Buildings and Grounds
18 years

“The most common refrain I get from visitors who come here from all over the state is, ‘Wow! What a beautiful campus and facilities SMC has.’ We hear over and over again that students, upon coming to campus, very quickly decide to come here because of what our facilities look like and how they’re maintained. That doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, it doesn’t happen most places, which is the reason it’s so remarkable.”

Dierickx will oversee the two projects renovating the William P.D. O’Leary and Foster W. Daugherty buildings.

George Dierickx

Gary Tomlinson
Buildings and Grounds
26 years

About 10 years ago — and Dr. Diane Chaddock, the executive vice president and chief operating officer who retired in 2013, swore it was true — a man wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase was trying to find her for an interview.

Ever helpful — “another characteristic of our maintenance staff,” the president said — Tomlinson showed him the way, but impishly cautioned that she was hard of hearing.

“You’re going to have to look right at her and speak loudly,” he advised the visitor.

About halfway through the interview, the man realized Chaddock’s hearing was fine.

“It was a prank we pulled on salesmen because our boss didn’t like salesmen,” Tomlinson said. “I thought it was a good joke to pull on her. She lived in Baroda, too. She said, ‘Was it a tall, thin guy?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ She knew it was me.”

Like SMC’s other retirees, “Gary has put his life’s energy into making Southwestern Michigan College work so well,” the president said.

Gary Tomlinson

Jack Crouse
Humanities/speech instructor
20 years

As president, Mathews’ attention focuses more on political and financial arenas, leaving instruction supervision to Vice President Dr. David Fleming.

Though Mathews, a mathematician who periodically teaches rock climbing, is mostly removed from daily student interaction, he’s struck by reports which cross his desk showing Crouse year in and year out at or near the top of faculty in the number of students taught.

“There is nothing more important we do than to provide affordable access to high-quality education to students, and we do that in a setting we are very proud of, and rightfully so, because of the personal interaction where faculty members know your name, care about how you’re doing, keep track of you and know if you’re there or not.”

Jack Crouse

Lois Owen
Arts and Sciences
administrative assistant
15 years

“Lois has the exact right temperament for meeting our students where they are with what they need and being a helpful person,” Mathews said of Owen, who started as a work-study in developmental education. “She has done that for a variety of bosses in a variety of places. She always does that as if this place is her home and these people are her family.

“It would be hard to imagine Southwestern Michigan College without Lois here, which is why she has convinced me that she needs to manage the Christmas party for the rest of her life. In fact, I kid you not, she is out scouting places because Riverfront (in Niles) closed. We will not say goodbye to Lois Owen, but ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”

Art Professor Emeritus David Baker a year ago painted a series of watercolors depicting ornamental trees blossoming on the Dowagiac campus.

Working with the Wellness Committee, he created a walking contest, “In the Footsteps of an Artist,” to identify the vantage point from which paintings were produced.

As the winner, Baker presented Owen with her favorite, the cone-shaped linden tree between the Foster W. Daugherty and the David C. Briegel buildings.

Lois Owen