SMC trustees updated on campus life

Published 11:59 am Friday, January 14, 2022

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College’s Board of Trustees Jan. 12 heard a presentation on supporting student engagement through campus life events despite ongoing pandemic challenges.

Dr. Joe Odenwald’s president’s report featured Executive Director of Campus Life Jeff Hooks, who said, “This year we tried to build on the momentum we had going into 2019; 2020 obviously put a crimp in student engagement across the country [due to COVID-19 restrictions].”

His apples-to-apples statistics compared those two similar years, showing 800 Welcome Week attendees in 2019 climbing to 1,324 last year.

“Studies show you have to get students involved in the first six weeks if you want them to attach to the campus,” Hooks said. “We actually did 33 more events in 2021 (88) than we did in 2019 [55]. Total attendance went from 1,755 to 2,734. Our residence hall programs also showed an increase, from 1,435 to 2,364. Unique attendees averaged 31 per event.”

With dozens of active organizations, “We tell students that as far as campus life, they can do everything here that they would at a four-year university,” Hooks said.

“COVID is the roughest period I’ve ever witnessed for the college,” said Chairman Tom Jerdon. “To do what you’ve done is just remarkable.”

In other news, trustees accepted a $7,500 gift from Indiana Michigan Power via the AEP Foundation, Pittsburgh, for the Grady Scholars program. Board members also acknowledged 34 donations totaling $108,525 to the SMC Foundation.

President Odenwald also presented Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon with his 30-year service pin. Jerdon, born the same year as SMC, is only the second chairman in the college’s 58-year history, succeeding 50-year Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews in 2015. He was just 27 when he became a trustee in 1991. He is the fourth 30-year member, joining Vice Chairman Keith H. McKenzie, the late Dr. Mathews and the late Foster W. Daugherty. The board named a residence hall for Jerdon in 2013 in recognition of his substantial contributions to the college.

A third-generation real estate broker with Jerdon Real Estate in Silver Creek Township whose grandfather, Floyd Jerdon Sr., established the firm in 1950, Jerdon graduated from Dowagiac Union High School in 1982, earned an SMC associate degree in 1984 and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1986 from Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business. Jerdon has also been a licensed appraiser and, as a real estate developer, created Villamere Condominiums in Dowagiac. He was the original chairman of Dowagiac’s Dogwood Fine Arts Festival and is an SMC Foundation director. Between his wife, Jodi, and two sisters, SMC has also produced an information technology engineer, a nurse and a teacher. He and Jodi have two daughters.

Executive Director of Campus Life Hooks was awarded his five-year service pin by Trustee Beth Cripe. Hooks joined SMC in 2017 as Director of Residence Life. He was promoted to his current position in 2020. Hooks previously served at Longwood University in Virginia, SUNY Oswego in New York, Middle Tennessee State University and Mississippi State University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy and administration. Hooks is in his final semester of a doctor of education degree in community college leadership from Ferris State University. The Iraq war veteran served four years active duty with the Army and three years in the Mississippi Army National Guard.