Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Boomer wave crashing ashore creates opportunities

SMC honor graduates

The world belongs to those who show up.

Jack Crouse, retiring humanities and communication instructor, said at Southwestern Michigan College’s April 17 reception for 119 honor graduates, “You should be happy about the opportunity awaiting you. I’ve become very fond of sayings in a world where ‘truth’ seems to have become a gray area and if you say something enough it becomes true.”

Crouse, speaking in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus, credited aging baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964 — the year the college was founded — for opportunities to come.

“They come in two categories, those born right after World War II until 1955 and late boomers, 1956 to 1964,” Crouse said. “They represent this giant population wave which swept through the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st century. Each group has about 38 million people. Combined, they represent 76 million people in a population which was 200 million in 1964. We’re talking about 40 percent of America’s population.”

Boomers “own 80 percent of this nation’s wealth,” Crouse said. “They represent 50 percent of this nation’s consumer spending. They buy 77 percent of prescription drugs, 61 percent of over-the-counter drugs and 50 percent of all skin creams.”

“The bad news is that 60 percent have at least one chronic disease,” he said. “How does that affect you? As of 2013, the average retirement age in this country is 67. In 2011, the first boomer arrived at 65; 8,000 have been hitting that age a day, or about 3 million a year. This massive wave is about to wash up on the shore. They’re not going to give up easily: 36 percent say they’ll postpone retirement, 25 percent say they’re never going to retire, but one way or another, opportunity is going to open for you soon in a world that is truly changing.”

From 1960 to 2012, Earth’s population more than doubled, from 3 billion to 7 billion, but peaked that March and began shrinking.

By 2042, U.S. “minorities” will be the majority. “By the end of this century, we are projected to be the largest Spanish-speaking country on the planet,” Crouse said. “You’re looking at a world of enormous opportunity. People who are motivated, educated and show up will truly inherit the world.”

Since “you don’t need my advice,” Crouse left honor graduates with three cautionary words — special, meaningful and victim.

“I’d like to suggest ‘meaningful’ jobs is arrogant,” Crouse said. “Unless it’s a criminal enterprise, all human labor is noble. We make up politically correct terms to make people feel better — ‘sanitation engineer’ for garbage man or ‘barista’ for the guy who gives me coffee. Let’s replace ‘meaningful’ with ‘rewarding.’ Financial security and prosperity are really meaningful to people who depend on you. We go lacking for workers to fill certain jobs that cannot be outsourced. Truth is, we need more welders than we need dilettantes. ‘Special’ is usually followed by ‘you deserve.’ I hope all of you are special to somebody, but if everybody’s special, nobody’s special. Feeling special makes you ill-prepared to deal with adversity, the one promise life is going to keep. Embrace work, which is a contract between you and the person who pays you. Love your boss. It’s common to diss the establishment and evil, corrupt big business, but at the end of the day this is who makes our mortgage payment, feeds us and clothes us. If you have ever experienced that gut-wrenching feeling of losing your livelihood, you know what I’m talking about. Lastly, avoid the psychology of victimization, which excuses failure. Self-esteem is good. Self-awareness is better. Embracing your mistakes tells you what you need to change to become a better person.”

In his Board of Trustees’ welcome, Treasurer Thomas F. Jerdon recounted how SMC impacted his family, starting with his sister, a Candy Striper at Dowagiac’s Lee Memorial Hospital at 14. “She knew exactly what she wanted to do in life, so SMC’s specialized nursing program was an ideal fit. She’s a Lakeland physical therapy nurse. SMC laid the foundation” for his other sister to become a teacher through Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.

His wife juggled jobs at a convenience store and babysitting trying to afford college. At SMC she qualified for Pell Grants and worked at Fred L. Mathews Library, which helped her graduate with an information technology degree and become an IT engineer with LECO Corp. in St. Joseph.
“Then there’s me,” Jerdon said. “I had no plans coming out of high school. In June 1982, I stood in my cap and gown in our church receiving line. Each of us was asked what we were going to do with our lives. A well-dressed man shook my hand vigorously while I stammered. He gave me a pep talk about how I was college material and that credential would open new avenues. That man was former SMC President David Briegel.”

The 119 students graduating with honors at SMC’s 47th commencement May 3 were honored before their friends and families for earning cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 or higher.

Honor graduates include Dixie Adams, Rolando Alcaraz, Kevin Anderson, Guadalupe Arellano-Nelson, Amanda Barella, Gabriela Bastidas Rodriguez, Monique Berg, Monica Bielski, Janell Birmele, Andrew Bizoe, Michael Boyd, Anna Brock, Michelle Brooks, Lee Brubaker, Fawn Bussler, Paula Carpenter, Toby Caudill, Ginny Caudle, Paul Chamberlain, Lisa Cherrone, Jessika Clement, Stephanie Cluster, Matthew Collins, Melissa Cooper, Allison Corbin, Elizabeth Corwin, Holly Cowan, Robin Craddock, Timothy Craig, Hannah Davis, Brooks Diamond, Morgan Dollar, Whitney Donaldson, Rebecca Dubs, Mary Flagel, Breck Flory, Gavin Francis, Laura Gentry, Trevor Gray, Patrick Grzybowski, Zacharias Guernsey, Zachary Gunther, Victor Gutierrez-Schultz, Amanda Haase, Colin Harding, Tyler Hartman, Zachary Hays, Eric Heiney , Robert Helms, Raylin Hinds, Jonathan Howe, Tanya Humphrey, Harrison Huys, Matthew Jacobs, Rachel Johnson, Vercysia Jorge, Alicia Keefe, Alexander King, Roy Kolinske, Emily Koszyk, Michelle LaMore, Theresa Lingle, Nickole Martin, Desirae Massey, Melissa McClain, Perla Medina Cano, Kaytlyn Miller, Emily Mills, Chloe Monica, Kerri Morris, Katy Morseau-Rader, Steven Moser, Nicole Nasco, Kathryn Nelson, Misty Ostrander, Rebecca Pace, Hannah Pacheco, Lexis Peoples, Yaneli Perez, Jessica Pike, Andrew Popielski, Christine Pyard, Patricia Rader, Courtney Reed, Raven Roseburgh, Brad Ruminer, Nicole Rutherford, Kimberly Ryan, Katherine Sage, Dawn Secord, Sherri See, Eric Shadix, Marble Simbi-Mujeye, Dustin Simon, Warren Simpson, Dylan Souza, Tara Sova, Justin Squier, Danny St Cin, Ashley Stacks, Laura Stama, Mary Stewart, Taylor Stowe, Jennifer Sturdee, Brittani Stutsman, Faith Styx, Chelsea Thompson, Adam Tiefenbach, Heather Valentine, Lindy Valenzuela, Ginger Vallejo, Raquel Wade, Melanie Watson, Mikyla Webb, Michael Welsch, Larry Wilson, McKenna Wolf, Bethany Woodward and Mary Yoder.