SMC creates Founders Club

Published 12:27 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2021

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College continues to grow on-campus student activities and intercollegiate athletics, and the community is definitely on board.

In addition to the return of nationally-ranked cross country teams to competition this fall, the SMC Board of Trustees in May authorized the return of NJCAA men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s wrestling for fall 2022. The college will also create a pep band, a women’s competitive dance team and a bass-fishing team to provide more opportunities for students to continue the activities they love while pursuing a certificate or degree.

SMC’s Founders Club was established earlier in 2021 to allow individuals or families in the community to help support the Roadrunners during this revival phase of the Athletics Department. Founders Club members pledge a minimum of $10,000 over five years to help offset startup costs and are considered the “inner circle” of SMC Athletics donors.

Founders Club members will have access to premium seating in the 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse for home games, invitations to special events in the second-floor guest suite and regular recognition throughout the year.

“We’ve had tremendous interest from the business community in helping to rebuild a collegiate athletics program from the ground up, because that’s not an opportunity that’s available very often, but we also wanted to provide a way for individuals or families who are so inclined to make a lasting impact,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president for institutional advancement.

The Odenwalds took the term “first family” literally and were first to join the Founders Club in August.

“Southwestern Michigan is a special place — my family loves it, and we’re putting down roots here,” said Dr. Joe Odenwald, SMC president. “Laura is volunteering as head coach for the dance team, and we, along with my father, Jay, wanted to step up and make a financial impact as well.”

Following Odenwald’s lead, Patricia Patano, of Dowagiac, who is a member of the SMC Foundation Board of Directors, also joined the Founders Club in September.

“It is an honor to be a part of this important program,” Patano said. “SMC is proving that athletics and a stellar education go hand in hand. Students who bring enthusiasm and passion will create bright futures for this community. Talking with cross country runners who will be future nurses and educators has really inspired me. Plus, I love sports and can’t wait to watch these games right here, practically in my backyard.”

Those interested in joining the SMC Founders Club to show their support for SMC Athletics are invited to contact Mike O’Brien at (269) 782-1401 or