Schuette shares advice for success at 48th SMC Commencement

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The 419-member Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation from Southwestern Michigan College on Saturday, as the Dowagiac school held its 48th Commencement Ceremony that afternoon. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (PICTURED) delivered the commencement address. (Submitted photo)

The 419-member Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation from Southwestern Michigan College on Saturday, as the Dowagiac school held its 48th Commencement Ceremony that afternoon. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (PICTURED) delivered the commencement address. (Submitted photo)

Don’t just consume oxygen.

Give back.

And shine your shoes.

That was Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s advice on May 2 for Southwestern Michigan College’s 419-member Class of 2015 at the 48th Commencement in the gymnasium of the Charles O. Zollar Building on the Dowagiac campus.

“Some people just sit and watch life go by, probably complaining all the time,” Schuette said. “They spend most of their lives breathing in and breathing out and not adding much to the atmosphere around them. Each of you can, should and must do more in your life than simply consume oxygen. You can’t sit on the sidelines. Make sure you make a difference. Whichever path you choose, be involved and participate.

“You must be a giver,” Schuette continued. “There are givers and takers in this world. Don’t be a taker. We all need to give back to our country and our communities. Volunteer your time and talent. Reach out and help a family that’s struggling or help a young child learn to read.

“There are lots of ways to give back. America is a special place between two great oceans occupied by people with a special love of freedom, faith and peace. We embrace the value that the ability to succeed or fail is based on the potency of your ideas, the sharpness of your brain and lots of hard work. You must give back because the sustainability of our country and its continued ability to promote freedom and the rights of individuals depends on the strength of our citizenry — all of us together.”

“Shine your shoes, so when you go to a job interview you make a nice impression. Your shoes will last longer,” Schuette said. “I shined mine for you last night, just so you know.”

“It’s pretty cool that your distinguished president, Dr. David Mathews, is a former Halo team leader for Special Forces and skydived into Southwestern Michigan College for its 50th anniversary. I know that story is simply the icing on the cake of the leadership and direction David has provided. I know from personal experience leadership runs deep in the Mathews family at SMC and across this area. I want to congratulate my dear friend, Fred Mathews, on his retirement as chairman of the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees. Fifty years as chairman is a huge achievement.”

“I’ve done a little homework about the Roadrunners,” Schuette said. “Not only do you have one of the best nursing programs in America, under David’s leadership, SMC is, year after year, in the top five to 10 percent nationally in student success. That’s an incredible accomplishment for everybody, and it’s a team effort.”

“I want to talk about exceptional people I’m able to share a room with,” Schuette said. “Joseph Lambert, Mark Styx, Jonathan Vore, Karen Callaway, Christina Mosher and Nicole Northrop are graduating summa cum laude with bachelor’s degrees from Ferris State University. There’s more, which is what’s tremendous about this place. James Larson, Jeffrey Nagy, Danny St. Cin, Robert Rosentreter III, Andrea Sackett and Jonathan Durand all served our country. Thank you for your military service.

“It just keeps coming. You think about the six students who took their talents and expertise and performed on Broadway. Four students who presented at the American Chemical Society in Denver. And four criminal justice students who just advanced to nationals.

“There are Sherry Loniello and her son, Russell. They’re graduating together today. Sherry’s an SMC-trained Certified Nursing Assistant adding to that a certificate from the School of Business and Advanced Technology. Russell, one of Sherry’s six children, worked full-time while taking classes part-time. Wonder where he got his drive and determination. Next week, Cynthia and I will attend the graduation of our daughter, Heidi.”

Schuette compared the best Commencement speeches to comets — “dazzling, eye-opening and over before you know it.”

Schuette is the only Attorney General in state history to have served in the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

The Midland resident was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

Schuette previously served as a member of Congress, state agriculture director, state senator and a Court of Appeals judge.

He is a member of the Albion College Board of Trustees.

Thomas F. Jerdon, addressing his first Commencement as chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Schuette “has a couple of SMC connections. When he was agriculture director, he worked with Vice Chairman Keith McKenzie, who chaired the Michigan Agriculture Commission. Then, in 1991, Mr. Schuette hired the agriculture legislative liaison from Cassopolis who later became SMC Trustee Dan Wyant,” current director of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“As you walk around SMC’s beautiful campus, notice that the Father O’Leary Building is under renovation and reopens this August to provide much-needed state-of-the-art science labs and classrooms,” Jerdon said. “These facilities will be among the best in the nation. The SMC Board of Trustees, along with our hardworking administration, provided the vision and decision making to make this happen. Our outstanding faculty provides the very best instruction within these facilities. Thirty years ago, SMC’s faculty inspired me.”

“As a group,” President Dr. David M. Mathews said, “over two-thirds of you are the first in your family ever to attain a college degree. That is transformative.”

Nine students — Pamela Alphenaar of Niles, Micah Fox of Niles, Lorrie Gardner of Vandalia, Dana Hammons of Sawyer, Connie Kutschbach of Edwardsburg, Nicholas Neppach of Constantine, Pamela Sandy of Union, Jennifer Swank of South Bend, Ind., and Taylor Whealy of Berrien Springs — graduated with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.