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Mathews serenades SMC Niles campus sneak preview

Published 9:13pm Thursday, August 8, 2013

Southwestern Michigan College President Dr. David M. Mathews treated a sneak peek of the new Niles Campus Thursday evening to his guitar rendition of Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans.”

Mathews sang with “my favorite band,” (Dalia) Garcia and (Gary) Scott, to make the larger point that the freshly refurbished Niles campus to the tune of $3 million eventually will be a hit for SMC of the magnitude the train song proved for the folk singer.

Guthrie, who has appeared in Dowagiac twice at the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, related the story of the song at the middle school Performing Arts Center.

“City of New Orleans” was written by Steve Goodman, who first recorded it for his self-titled 1971 album, describing a ride from Chicago to the Crescent City on the Illinois Central Railroad while visiting his wife’s family.

Goodman pitched the song to a weary Guthrie in the Quiet Knight, a Chicago bar.

Guthrie added it to his repertoire, becoming a hit on his 1972 release, “Hobo’s Lullaby.”

It is now more closely associated with Guthrie, although Goodman performed until his 1984 death.

“It turned out to be arguably his biggest hit ever — maybe ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ but that takes 18 minutes to play, and I’m not up to that,” Mathews said. “What if he had walked away without listening? Maybe someone else would have recorded it or maybe no one would have recorded it. I’m glad we stopped and listened to students we began surveying two years ago about what they wanted. They wanted convenience, student services delivered here and complete educational programs offered on this campus and access to curricula in health careers, business careers and tech careers. We are now poised to provide that.”

SMC’s grand reopening of the Niles Campus (Area has been deleted from the name) on U.S. 12 at M-60 in Cass County’s Milton Township, takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Founded almost 50 years ago in 1964, SMC began offering courses on the Dowagiac campus in 1966, followed five years later in 1971 in Brandywine Community School District rented space, then the former Bell Educational Center in the 1980s.

Continued growth created Niles Campus in 1991. A 1999 expansion overseen by Mathews as vice president for instruction doubled instructional space, followed two years later by the adjacent M-TEC facility named for former state Sen. Harry Gast, R-St. Joseph, for advanced technology programs.

In appearance, the new student commons strikes some as futuristic, with pods of big chairs beneath overhanging lights reminiscent of “The Jetsons,” though the space-age revolution transformed communications instead of transportation ushering in flying cars.

With SMC’s third residence hall in Dowagiac opening soon, Mathews said 390 students will live on campus, with a waiting list of more than 50.

Between 2006 and 2010, SMC grew by 60 percent.






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