Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Borgess giving $10,000 to SMC nursing expansion

07/11/2017 - 10am
John Ryder, Jan Troeger, President Mathews

Ascension Health’s Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital in Dowagiac is giving $10,000 to Southwestern Michigan College’s nursing expansion.

“Borgess is very happy to support this project,” Chief Operating Officer John Ryder said July 10 at SMC. “We see it as visionary. We’re happy to know it’s going to provide the latest in facilities and technology for the region. It’s going to serve the community well for years to come.”

“We personally benefit from having a great nursing school like SMC has,” Ryder added. “We see the need for well-qualified nurses. That’s a need that’s growing across the country. We’re experiencing that need ourselves across our system locally, in the region and even nationally as part of Ascension Health.”

Ascension, a St. Louis faith-based health care organization, is the largest non-profit health system and largest Catholic health system in the United States.

Borgess-Lee is one of 141 hospitals in 24 states and Washington, D.C., for which Ascension Health is the parent company.

“There’s a strong need for well-qualified nurses,” Ryder said, “and this project really supports that. Many of the excellent nurses we have are local residents who went to school at SMC and do a fine job for us. The technology of the simulation labs gives the ability to train nurses in situations they might experience infrequently.”

“In a typical OB rotation, a nursing student might see a baby born,” SMC President Dr. David Mathews said. “In simulation labs, they can birth as many babies as they want, be front-and-center in the process and have simulated abnormalities occur to prepare them as best you can before that really happens.”

“All health systems are faced with recruiting nurses,” Mathews said.

“One advantage of SMC nursing graduates is most are local residents who want to stay locally. You don’t have to sell them on our community. They’re already sold,” said Mathews, who was born at Lee Memorial Hospital.
Mathews’ late wife, Janet, had been a critical care nurse and nursing educator at the Dowagiac hospital.

“The majority of leadership in the organization are SMC grads,’ Chief Nursing Officer Jan Troeger said. “We usually take any SMC grad we can because we know the high caliber of education they are provided.”

“Just like I cannot imagine what Dowagiac would be like without Southwestern Michigan College, I cannot imagine what Dowagiac would be like without our local hospital,” Mathews said.

“We will be in the building either in fall 2018 or January 2019,” Mathews said. “We’re doubling the physical size of the building, so in addition to being able to expand the size of our nursing class from 40 to 56 students and continuing to offer health-related occupations, we’ll have space to offer occupational therapy assistant or physical therapy assistant, which we’re continuing to evaluate as possibilities.”

The project proceeds once construction contracts are awarded at a special Board of Trustees meeting set for 8 a.m. Friday, July 21.

Instead of a traditional groundbreaking ceremony, there will be a “construction celebration” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, with state Budget Director Al Pscholka and SMC nursing student representatives speaking.

SMC Foundation insures all eligible students have financial access to college education.

This non-profit, tax-exempt corporation established in 1970 bridges the financial gap between students’ needs and resources with scholarships.

To learn more about the foundation's major gift initiative for the nursing expansion, visit

Or, contact Executive Director Eileen Toney at: SMC Foundation, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047; (269) 782-1301; or