Four employees with 73 years of Southwestern Michigan College service were honored at the sixth annual Retirement and Recognition Program in Mathews Conference Center East on the Dowagiac campus.
They are Dr. Jonathan Korzun, director of bands, 28 years; Bill Rothwell, graphic design instructor, 20 years; Tom Atkinson, chief of staff, five years; and music instructor Fredrick “Pat” Patrick, 20 years.
Korzun, a New Jersey native, chaired SMC’s Fine and Performing Arts Department, as it was called, from 1998-2006. In February 2017 he became ordained to perform the marriage of two former musicians. Andrew Fisher Quartet, formed at SMC in 2014, dedicated its first CD to him. He was one of 96 trombone players in the 900-plus member Olympic All-American Marching Band for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Korzun earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rutgers University and a doctorate in music education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Rothwell worked as an aerospace illustrator for 18 years in Anaheim, Calif., before joining SMC in 1999, setting up a lab with new Apple Macintosh computers. Rothwell developed an innovative skills-based program he directed, pioneering industry relationships and hosting annual advisory meetings.
SMC’s friendly environment, administrative support, emphasis on student success and small class sizes helped foster Rothwell’s passion for teaching. His love and command of the subject is always apparent, combined with his sense of humor. He promoted a friendly, interactive learning environment that involved collaboration between students and other SMC departments.
Patrick, 82, started playing in the Brass Band/Round Oak groups “because I wanted to play some of Dr. Korzun’s collection of authentic Civil War instruments. My son, Shawn, preceded me in both groups. For years I was just ‘Shawn’s dad.’ I’ve played string bass in the pit orchestra for most musicals for the last 20 years or so, as well as the concert band, jazz band and small ensembles.”
At SMC Patrick taught string bass and low brass instruments, music history, jazz and pop music. Prior to SMC he taught at Ohio’s Mount St. Joseph University, Western Illinois University and Henderson State University in Arkansas.
“Most of my life I’ve been a performing and traveling musician,” said Patrick, who plays 14 instruments. “I’ve played in almost half of the states and four foreign countries, plus the Canal Zone. I’ve played in five symphony orchestras, 12 concert bands, several dance bands — including my own — more jazz bands than I can count, two country bands and one polka band. My degrees are in music therapy, my day job for 16 years. I’m finally retired from everything except my wife’s ‘honey-do’ list.”
Atkinson joined SMC after 26 years with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, retiring as a captain and commander of the Major Crimes Task Force, then 14 years as Dowagiac police chief and three years as public safety director, including firefighters.
“Much of Tom’s work was behind the scenes, whether enhancing our security or through his other chief of staff duties in keeping the whole of SMC running smoothly,” President Dr. David Mathews said. “He is a person of great integrity and a very experienced manager of people. He was constantly striving to make SMC better and to make sure it is as safe as possible for our students, employees and community members. The thousands of hours he spent on security issues resulted in a very safe campus, and our students feel that. The 2019 Noel Levitz Survey of Student Satisfaction again showed our students highly satisfied with safety and security on our campus.”
Ironically, Atkinson didn’t set out to be a police officer, going into law enforcement initially to earn money to go to school to become a wildlife biologist or conservation officer. He graduated from the National FBI Academy at Quantico in 1984 and built good relationships because “if people trust you, you get a lot further than being adversarial.”