Southwestern Michigan College lost a connection to what is widely regarded as one of the best sports films ever made with Nance Myers’ Dec. 20 retirement from admissions after 28 years.
Myers happened to be at Notre Dame’s 1992 game against Boston College when “Rudy’s” climactic scene filmed.
As the Fighting Irish and Eagles retreated to their respective locker rooms, the movie’s crew and actors materialized to recreate the 1975 game between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, in which Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (1976), a 5-foot-6 walk-on, sacked the quarterback to cap his college career.
Starring Sean Astin, “Rudy” was the first movie shot on campus since “Knute Rockne, All-American,” with Ronald Reagan, in 1940. “Rudy” premiered Oct. 13, 1993.
“Every time I watch it, I look to see if I can see myself in the crowd,” Myers said. “We just happened to be there. One of the companies my husband works with had tickets, so we found out Friday we were going. I had no idea until we got there, but it was so cool and exciting.”
“If I was going to college now, I think the greatest job would be medical trainer on a sports team because you get to go to all the action, then you can still help people,” Myers said.
Nancy Bentz — becoming “Nance” when five women at SMC shared the name — grew up in Dowagiac the second of four children. Her father was football coach, her mother the school nurse, so education seemed a natural career path.
The 1973 Union High School graduate worked in Dowagiac’s reading department, then for Berrien Springs Public Schools’ migrant education program as an administrative assistant. She logged almost 35 years with Michigan schools.
Myers graduated from SMC (she had Dr. Joseph Lemrow, the college’s first professor emeritus, as a student) and transferred to Western Michigan University in education “with aspirations of maybe counseling or teaching. I ended up in education after all. I’ve been in admissions the whole time, but when I first started here, we didn’t have computers. Acceptance letters were on typewriters with carbon paper.
“I’ve evolved with the job and the times. I never dreamt I would have to learn computer programming, but I’ve mastered building programs. You learn a lot when you build it from the ground up.”
“I’ve been part of three different models of record-keeping for the college,” said Myers, whose tenure spanned the presidencies of David Briegel, Dr. Marshall Bishop and Dr. David M. Mathews. “I was here when e-mail was invented. I’ve seen a lot of changes.”
Her two-person office with switchboard operator Cathy Feirick processes all applications for admission, but also serves as a “hub" because those documents, properly coded, “drive every system at the college. They generate revenue, you have to have a student record to test or to have transcripts evaluated. We send out acceptance letters, we handle test scores as far as ACT and SAT. We enter all of those, so when the student comes in to register we have all information in place. Our mission is to make sure everything is there for a smooth start. We process applications within 24 hours.”
Another aspect of her job was the Information Center in the College Services Building.
“We answer a multitude of random questions people have coming the first time when they stumble on us and don’t know where they want to be. We get them to the proper advisers or instructors. The switchboard was housed under my direction. That component is for the whole college, answering for all departments.”
“We work with every department because every department needs information from us,” she said. “Financial aid, records, student services, testing. We are the hub. Before this building was built (in the ’90s), administration and these offices were in the O’Leary Building,” which in 2014 will be renovated to resemble the Student Activity Center of the Charles O. Zollar Building and the Jan and A.C. Kairis Building.
O’Leary Science Building will contain a student-faculty collaboration area, lecture hall and SCALE-UP labs (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) identical to those added to the Niles Campus in 2013.
After graduation in 2015, Daugherty Academic Building will be created from the former science building to contain traditional classrooms, faculty offices, a lecture hall and a student-faculty collaboration area.
During the two-year role reversal, faculty will be temporarily housed in the former enrollment area of the Dale A. Lyons Building.
“I didn’t expect to be here 28 years,” Myers said. “I don’t know where I’ll pop up next. I’ve always worked around people. Customer service is a lost art. I’m open to whatever poses itself, probably part-time, but in the private sector you can work fulltime after retiring out of the school system. With Jon in college at Ferris State, I’m ready to find some new adventures. I like to be outdoors and to go for long walks with my dog. I read a lot.”
Having Jon attend SMC provided her a parent’s perspective on the admission process.
“It was fun with his classmates coming, where I knew their parents,” she said. “Helping people is rewarding. I do that by making it easier. Sometimes it’s very complicated and scary. I broke things down in steps so it’s not overwhelming.”
“Twenty-eight years really hit me the other day training my replacement, Kristan Stelmasiak,” Myers said. “She wasn’t even born when I started here.”