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SMC recognizes retirees

Southwestern Michigan College paid tribute May 20 to eight retirees led by Dr. Stephen Jess, 39

Before he joined the history faculty at SMC in 1977, Jess taught at the University of Nebraska, from which he earned his doctorate and master of arts degree in English history.

“During his time at SMC,” Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said at the 49th Commencement May 7, (Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming) estimates he taught more than 7,000 students. Many later became SMC professors (such as Dr. Jeff Dennis). A couple, Becky Moore and I, became SMC trustees.”

“Each one of us here, our legacy won’t be programs, buildings or anything other than individual students whose lives we touched,” President David Mathews said at the Student Activity Center reception on SMC’s Dowagiac campus.

“Sometimes we do that without even knowing,” Mathews said. “After 7,000 students, Steve Jess has had a tremendous amount of impact. One I know about by accident. Several years ago I was at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City. One of the persons in period costume showing us around went to Southwestern Michigan College. Her passion for history had been influenced by Dr. Jess. She was living her dream by working in this historical teaching context.”

Dr. Ron Herr, retiring economics and business professor, enjoyed a 35-year career in four industries — non-profits, insurance, health care and education, earning designation as a certified public accountant, a chartered property casualty underwriter and a certified employee benefits specialist.

Herr worked as an accountant, a salesperson, a controller, chief financial officer and president, attaining a master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University and his doctorate from Andrews University.

“When my daughter (Samantha) was here, figuring out what she wanted to do, I found out she was being tutored by Dr. Herr in accounting. I said, ‘I thought I saw your course schedule and you don’t have Dr. Herr for accounting.’ She said, ‘No, he just helps anybody who needs help in any subject.’ I thought, ‘Isn’t that the definition of a teacher?’ We’ve been so very fortunate to have both Dr. Jess and Dr. Herr here, interacting with our students,” Mathews said.

Retirees also include: Jane Brandstatter, The Learning Center and Writing Center coordinator; Andrea Gattis, scheduling coordinator; Brenda Pavolka, Career Planning Center advisor; Sue Mell, Niles Campus tutor; Billie Wilson, Educational Talent Search; and Terry Pfliger, art professor emeritus.