Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon figures 11 mentors helped him reach this point.
Jerdon, keynote speaker for the induction of 19 students into Sigma Psi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community colleges, at the Student Activity Center on the Dowagiac campus was awarded a 5-Star pin by Co-Advisor Colleen Welsch.
Jerdon, for whom one of three residence halls is named, is a 32-year PTK member, inducted March 28, 1984. He also served as Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival’s first president.
“We thank Tom for his dedication to Southwestern Michigan College,” said Welsch, director of library services. “You have set such a wonderful precedent for your PTK family on how to lead by example.”
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“A high school teacher mentored me, a high school coach, a professor at SMC, two Grand Valley professors, a pastor, my parents, an uncle and professionals in my career,” Jerdon said.
“My advice is you need a diverse team of mentors for a variety of advice and wisdom. You need your own cabinet, just like the new president-elect.”
Jerdon graduated from Dowagiac Union High School in 1982, from SMC with an associate degree in 1984 and from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from its Seidman College of Business in 1986.
The real estate developer and broker is the third generation in the firm his grandfather, Floyd Jerdon Sr., founded in 1950.
He also serves on the SMC Foundation board and its investment committee.
Born the same year as the college, half his life has been devoted to improving SMC, joining the board in 1991, becoming treasurer in 2003, then chairman in 2015.
Between his wife and two sisters, SMC also produced an information technology engineer, a nurse and a teacher.
Calculus represented his personal “academic roadblock,” first at SMC, then at Grand Valley, where tutors finally helped him succeed. Jerdon kept that report card, prouder of the B he achieved on his third try than all other A’s.
“I went to class every day and did all the homework, which worked before,” Jerdon said. “I wasn’t the smartest student, but few people could outwork me. My professor for the four-credit course suggested I go to the tutoring and learning center. Monday-Thursday I’d be in class. Right after class I spent another hour and a half with tutors. Thursdays we had a quiz. She’d grade it and I’d go back to the tutoring center on Monday. There wasn’t a learning center when I was at SMC, but there is now and it’s here for you. The minute you start struggling, get over there.”
Jerdon’s third piece of advice is to properly thank mentors and others who impact their lives with cards like he has been handwriting for two years at his kitchen table for college donors.
He knows it’s worth “a thousand times more than a verbal thank-you” because recipients tell him so.
“I’ve written a few hundred,” Jerdon said, “and never anticipated them responding. I got feedback they were impressed the SMC board chairman would personally thank them in his own penmanship for giving to the college, which is important because that money goes to you for scholarships. I have gotten seven handwritten thank-you cards from donors, thanking me for thanking them!”
Co-Advisor Natalie Anagnos presented a yellow medallion to President Aidan Traynor of Cassopolis and blue officer medallions to Vice President Katie Gamage from Maine and Secretary Courtney Hartline of Marcellus.
As Welsch read inductees’ names, they signed the chapter record book, poured colored sands into a container and were pinned by Anagnos before reciting a pledge.
Inducted Dec. 9 are: education major David Brogan; Tamia Brooks, psychology; communication major Kristi Buzalski, transferring to Bethel College to study sign language interpretation; social science transfer Juliana DeVisser, diagnostic sonography; Michelle Dowsett, criminal justice; Lincoln Gendron, undecided; Tyler Gendron, undecided; Kira Holloway, visual arts; Charity Johnson, nursing; Keith Johnson, chemistry; Jenna McAllister, accounting; Samantha Jo Miller, graphic design; Taylor Myers, nursing; Allison Richcreek, graphic design; Laura Sherwood, social science, then WMU for occupational therapy; Ivy Smith, communications; Erika Stacey, industrial technology; Courtney Yoder, medical pre-professional; and Anne Zebell, music.
Criminal justice major Nancy Martinez was unable to attend.
“Students we recognize and honor today embody scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship, which are the hallmarks” of PTK, founded in 1919, Anagnos said.