Joining Keith H. McKenzie for the ribbon-cutting Sunday of SMC’s first residence hall were Board of Trustees members Paul File, Bill White, Tom Jerdon, Carole Tate, Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, wife Darlene McKenzie, Jan Kairis, state Rep. Sharon Tyler of Niles, state Sen. Ron Jelinek of Three Oaks and Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton. Two former presidents were in attendance, David Briegel and Russell “M” Owen. (The Daily News/John Eby)
Joining Keith H. McKenzie for the ribbon-cutting Sunday of SMC’s first residence hall were Board of Trustees members Paul File, Bill White, Tom Jerdon, Carole Tate, Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, wife Darlene McKenzie, Jan Kairis, state Rep. Sharon Tyler of Niles, state Sen. Ron Jelinek of Three Oaks and Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton. Two former presidents were in attendance, David Briegel and Russell “M” Owen. (The Daily News/John Eby)

Archived Story

SMC dedicates McKenzie Hall

Published 9:04am Monday, August 17, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

In 22 years on the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees, Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews calculated Vice Chairman Keith H. McKenzie’s commitment.

Time spent at planning sessions, board meetings, continuing education seminars and official college functions “equates conservatively” to 1 1/2 years of five days a week, eight hours a day volunteer service, Mathews said Sunday as SMC dedicated McKenzie Hall. “It does take a special person to have that dedication.”

Keith’s cousin Don spent 17 years as an SMC trustee, so there has been a McKenzie on the board for 40 of the college’s 45 years.

Aug. 16 marked an historical milestone at SMC – dedication of the college’s first student residence facility, which will house 130 students full-time on campus when classes start Sept. 8.

“Campus life will be greatly enhanced, not only for resident students, but for all 3,000 students,” Mathew said. “Days like today really make it all worthwhile and rewarding for trustees,” who serve without pay.

A second residence hall is already under construction to open in the fall of 2010 on SMC’s 240-acre Dowagiac campus.

When voters approved SMC 45 years ago in 1964, 41 percent of the adult population had an eighth grade education or less, which was well below state average, but in those pre-technological revolution days, that level of schooling provided basis for a job.

“The transformation of this area of the state we serve has been spectacular,” Mathews said. “The number of adults with an eighth grade education or less is now 2.5 percent.”
Realization of Keith H. McKenzie Hall began a little less than three years ago, when the SMC Board of Trustees approved a feasibility study to determine if the college should build on-campus student housing at its Dowagiac campus.

In April 2007, the board green-lit pursuing the community college’s first on-campus housing.

There were three compelling reasons for undertaking the analysis to building student housing, according to SMC President Dr. David Mathews.

• Market demand.

• SMC needed additional revenue.

• The issue of affordable access to a full college life experience.

“Many potential students tell us that housing is the key to their decision about where they attend college,” Mathews advised the board in December 2006. “A drastic reduction in state funding over the past eight years has made it imperative that the college generate more tuition revenue.

“Skyrocketing costs at the universities are putting a residential college experience out of the reach of many families,” Mathews said. “Because SMC’s tuition is less than half, or even one-third, of that at state universities, on-campus housing could provide students with an affordable, complete, college-life experience right here.”

Construction began in May 2008. It also included renovating and expanding the Student Activity Center (SAC) in the Charles O. Zollar Building, which will increase the number of on-campus student activities.

The SAC has more than doubled in size to 43,306 square feet.

The two projects were funded through $14.22 million in general obligation bonds without any new cost to taxpayers.

Bond payments, insurance, maintenance and management costs of student housing will be paid from revenue generated from student rentals.

Bond payments and operational expenses for the SAC will be funded from usage fees and funds reserved for this purpose by the college.

Shelton Construction Co. of Benton Harbor, general contractor on this pair of projects, contracted with Amish-owned and operated Graber Brothers Construction, LLC, of Harlan, Ind., for off-site fabrication of the walls and trusses and on-site assembly of them for the student housing building.

Dan Shelton and his team brought together more than 50 subcontractors.

“He said he has never built a prettier building than the Student Activities Center,” President Mathews said. “He said the student housing we have here is unparalleled.”
In March 2009, the SMC Board of Trustees approved construction of a second housing facility for which Shelton Construction is also the general contractor. Cost of the second housing unit is $5,164,507.

“Applicants from the high school graduating class of 2009 have exceeded the capacity of the first unit that will open this fall,” Dr. David Mathews said in March. “Beginning construction now for the second unit will allow us to provide sufficient space to accommodate all of the students from the graduating class of 2010 who are interested in living on SMC’s campus.”

According to Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, “The second housing unit, like the first, will be financed entirely through the rents provided by students and will require no taxpayer funds. In fact, the student housing will provide a net increase in revenue to the college, one that is much-needed in a time of declining state funding.”
President Dr. David M. Mathews said tuition and fees at Michigan public universities average more than $9,000, compared to some $3,000 at SMC.

During its May 2009 meeting, the SMC board voted to name its first residence hall Keith H. McKenzie Hall in honor of the Marcellus native’s 22 years of service to the college and to the community.

“Keith McKenzie has been a dedicated, active and engaged member of the Board of Trustees of SMC since 1987,” Chairman Dr. Fred Mathews said. “He is an example of the type of trustee that has made SMC a great college. He serves for the right reasons – to make high-quality, affordable education and training available to the students that the college serves. The Board of Trustees is proud to name the college’s first student housing unit after Keith McKenzie.”

McKenzie graduated from Marcellus High School and continued his education at Michigan State University.

McKenzie has served as president of the 50,000-member Michigan Livestock Exchange for seven years, served on the Michigan Livestock Board, the National Livestock Meat Board and the U.S. Meat Federation Board.

He also served on the National Livestock Producers Board and the Michigan Agriculture Commission as an appointee of Gov. John Engler.

Recently, McKenzie received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture award from Michigan Farm Bureau.

Each year, this award is given to a deserving individual who made an exceptional contribution to the state’s agricultural industry.

In 1989, McKenzie received the Master Pork Producer award for Michigan.
In 2002, he and his wife of 52 years, Darlene, a Western Michigan University graduate who taught second grade, jointly received special recognition for dedicated service to the Southwestern Michigan Pork Producers.

He was selected to represent the Michigan pork industry at the All-American level.
The McKenzies have two daughters and a son and nine grandchildren and are active members of red-brick Wakelee United Methodist Church – which Keith’s grandfather helped build – and have been long-time Volinia Community Action Group members.
John Messner, pastor of Wakelee UMC, gave the invocation and benediction.

McKenzie is a lifelong resident except years spent serving in the Army in Germany. He attended a one-room school grades 1-8. In fact, his first grade teacher, and faithful SMC museum volunteer, Iola Holtz, was in attendance.

An “energetic 4-H member” as a child, Dr. Fred Mathews said McKenzie at the fair showed a record-setting pig, cattle and horses. “His father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who served in the Civil War, were farmers before him.”

McKenzie has been a director of the family G.W. Jones Exchange Bank even longer than an SMC board member.

The former county planner in 1967 received a Kellogg Fellowship that over the course of three years took him around the nation and across the world.

McKenzie said, “This is truly quite an honor. I want to thank the trustees and President David Mathews because they had to approve this situation. Darlene kept things going at home while I spent so much time away from the farm promoting agriculture.” He introduced his family, which filled two rows.

Vertical challenge

The custom-designed rock room is made of interconnected sections with geometrically-shaped steel panels fabricated and installed much like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. Plywood is then put up on the steel structure.

Finally, a special two-part surface texture is applied, stamped and painted to provide a seamless finish.

More importantly, this texture has amazing feel for climbing, according to Rockwerx officials – much like the real thing.

The rock climbing room is the inspiration of SMC President Dr. David Mathews, who “was bitten by the (climbing) bug” in 1983.

He rediscovered rock climbing after enrolling himself and his two children, Samantha and Michael, in a climbing school at Joshua Tree National Park a few years ago. As part of SMC’s Extreme Sports program, Mathews will be teaching a rock climbing course this fall.

Mathews, as well as other SMC staff, will take a 20-hour instructional course before SMC’s rock climbing facility is open to the public.

For those who have never rock climbed, Mathews said the room is designed for beginners as well as experienced climbers.

“This is beginner-friendly,” he said. “We will have a have a range (of climbing routes) for beginners to some that are absolutely very challenging.”

The rock climbing room has the capacity for as many as 10 people to climb at one time.
There are 22 lines for learning rappelling, toproping and other climbing techniques.
There are more than 60 routes climbers can take in the room, not counting the 20 or more options on the 12-foot bouldering wall.

Bouldering is a term used when climbers use no harnesses or ropes to navigate the wall. If a climber was to fall, they would land on a bouldering or crash pad similar to a mattress.

In addition, the entire rock climbing room has a super-thick, shock-absorbent flooring throughout the facility.
Owner of the Higher Ground Rock Climbing Centre Ltd. in Grand Rapids, Frank Abissi said the flooring is one of the best padding systems he’s ever seen.

Abissi and D.J. Viernes, also with Higher Ground, were on campus in July placing the hundreds of brightly-colored holds on the walls.

Viernes said the tanks is much akin to opening a large Lego set at Christmas time.
“You get to build whatever you want,” Viernes said of the holds, which are placed strategically on the wall to force certain moves out of the climber.

The hard plastic holds are different colors for a reason.

“Blue is the easiest and black is the most difficult,” Viernes added.

Some of the more wacky holds are designed by a company in southern Illinois called So Ill Holds owned by two brothers.

Viernes said while the holds are crazy shapes like the company’s anatomy collections, which can be found in the rock climbing room at SMC, they are “good holds to hold onto and interesting, too.”

Viernes said climbers may not realize the hold they are about to grab is shaped like a brain or kidney until they are at eye level with the hold.

Participants will find climbing routes with names such as “Purple Rain” because all of the holds are purple; “Anatomy 101,” which reflects the crazy shapes from the So Ill Holds company; “Twist and Shout” based on how the climber has to twist around to reach different holds and then be faced with three holds that appear to be shouting at the climber; and “Road Runner Arete,” named for SMC’s mascot.

According to members of the rock-climbing industry, the college-aged youth population constitutes a huge percentage of growth in indoor rock climbing.

Increasingly, schools have begun climbing leagues and clubs, worked together to create inter-collegiate competitive climbing series and begun incorporating rock climbing into sports elective curriculums.

“I see a great interest among our students for the sport of rock climbing,” President Mathews said. “But I also believe SMC staff, as well as members of the community, will find the rock climbing room a great addition to their other fitness activities.

Introduction to Rock Climbing
CRN 2107, one credit, two contact hours
Begins Sept. 9
Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Student housing furniture durable

All of the furniture in the Keith H. McKenzie Hall was built by RT London of Grand Rapids.

The company has been in business since 1989 and has manufacturing operations in Michigan, Washington and South Carolina.

Specializing in environmentally sustainable and durable furniture for colleges, universities and federal government facilities, RT London designs, builds and upholsters all of its furniture in the United States.

In addition to guaranteeing its products for 25 years, the company’s sustainable goals focus on reducing waste, reducing harmful emissions, supporting sustainable forestry practices and utilizing recycled and renewable materials as well as alternative energy sources.

All of RT London’s wood case goods are constructed of wood products from managed forests in North America that participate in a credible certification program.

In addition, the company participates in the California Air Resource Board (CARB) initiative, a mandatory program in California which aims to eliminate the use of added formaldehyde in sheet good products in an effort to improve indoor air quality.

The final finish on RT London’s furniture is UV-treated to not emit volatile compounds that can lead to poor indoor air quality.

The company utilizes recycled materials, including 20 to 25 percent recycled steel in the manufacturing of RT London’s beds and case goods – 50 percent of which contains post-consumer material.

In addition to utilizing recycled content in their upholstered products and dining furniture, the company has transitioned to upholstery foam that utilizes polymers from soy instead of petroleum.

Resident assistants extensively trained

In addition to Jason Wilt, the student housing manager, SMC’s McKenzie Hall will have a resident assistant (RA) living full-time on each of its three floors.

Eleven second-year SMC students were interviewed during a two-day process to select three individuals who would become resident assistants.

The students were interviewed twice, with a final interview with Eileen Crouse, SMC’s executive director of student housing and campus life.

The three RAs will serve as a resource for students, report student violations, build relationships with their residents and assist with administrative responsibilities of McKenzie Hall.

Each RA received 25 hours of training over an eight-day period from Wilt, SMC staff and from resources in the professional community.

In addition, the RAs will receive ongoing training throughout the year.

Some of the topics covered in the training were community building, role modeling and leadership, how to handle confrontations, mental health issues, crisis response, mediation, administrative training and campus and community resources.

Charles O. Zollar

State Sen. Charles Zollar, R-Benton Township, represented the 22nd District from 1965 to 1978.

He was a fruit grower, nurseryman, business and agricultural leader and an energetic supporter of Michigan community colleges.

“He was an invaluable public servant to Southwestern Michigan College ever since opening its doors,” Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews said at the Sept. 20, 1970. dedication of the building which contains the new Student Activities Center (SAC).
“The new physical education building is to be named for Sen. Zollar in appreciation for his exceptional support of the college and his assistance to the taxpayers and board in making all the buildings at the college possible,” Mathews stated in an article in the Aug. 14, 1970, edition of the  Dowagiac Daily News. “Zollar worked to prevent the Legislature from cutting funds that would, in essence, have put the burden of supporting the college on the taxpayers.”

In addition to his state Senate seat, Zollar was Benton Township supervisor in Berrien County and a candidate in the primary race for U.S Rep. in Michigan’s 4th District – now the 6th District seat held by Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph.

Sen. Zollar, who died in 1988, was also honored with the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 1965.

He was born Jan. 6, 1914, in Chicago and belonged to Elks, Rotary, American Legion, Moose and Farm Bureau. His wife passed away two weeks ago.

All the security of home

Going off to college is a significant milestone, signaling a transition from living at home to living on one’s own.

Southwestern Michigan College students living in the Keith H. McKenzie Hall this fall will find everything they need to feel safe and at ease from the minute they arrive.
Safety features in place at McKenzie Hall include:

• Suite security – private key card for suite entry; each bedroom features a private keypad entry.

• Building security and support – Secured parking lot accessed only by a key card; key card entry to building; reception area where visitors must check in; an on-site housing manager available 24/7; and a Resident Assistant, or RA, on each of the three floors.
• Campus safety – At SMC, “Providing a safe and carefree environment in which to live and learn is the college’s main objective. A truly safe campus can only be achieved through the implementation of many different types and levels of security.”

• Campus security features – Alertify systems allow for instant communication via cell phone, home phone or text message; on-campus paging system provides immediate communication regarding unexpected emergencies such as sudden weather or violent crime threats; e-mail system allows for timely on-campus communication.

This system allows SMC to send time-sensitive information to home telephones, office telephones and cell phones.

It also allows the college to send messages to students and staff regarding important and/or emergency situations within minutes, whether they are on campus or off.

Campus security is provided by the Dowagiac Police Department and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office in Cassopolis through an intergovernmental agreement with SMC, 58900 Cherry Grove Road.

SAC features trio of resistance pools

Whether you are training for a triathlon or just want to get in shape working out on an underwater treadmill, the resistance pools at SMC are ideal for people who seek the health and fitness benefits of swimming.

Three “endless pools” at the Student Activity Center (SAC) in the Charles O. Zollar Building measure seven feet by 14 feet each and are approximately 40 inches deep.
Swimmers are able to swim or exercise in place against a current set at a speed or time pre-selected by the user based on their ability.

The current holds the swimmer in place, thus, they never reach the end of the pool.
Because the speed of the current varies depending on the setting chosen by the swimmer, individuals can swim at a top speed equivalent to swimming a mile without turns in less than 20 minutes or at a much slower pace.

The endless pools are also ideal for waist-deep aquatic exercise in still water or against a gentle current that can go as slow or as fast as needed. Plus, the pools are heated.

Current travels down the center of the pool, enters a grill in the back and circulates to the front of the pool, allowing the swimmer to establish a continuous loop of water. In addition, swimmers can simply step to the sides of the pool to get out of the current.

Fitness center doubles cardio equipment

The fitness center in the Student Activity Center (SAC) of the Charles O. Zollar Building has doubled the number of cardio equipment and added more free weights, including new, urethane-coated dumbbells.

In addition, the fitness center has a newer version of the Cybex Selectorized equipment.
A Life Fitness Cable Motion Multi-Jungle and a Life Fitness Cable Motion dual adjustable pulley were also added.

The fitness center will have:
• 11 treadmills.
• 12 elliptical trainers.

• One stair stepper.

• Four recumbent bikes.

• Five upright bikes.

• Four hammer strength plates.

• Four Olympic benches.

• Two power racks.

• One Smith machine.

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