Southwestern Michigan College Foundation embarks on the 2019-20 academic year with a new Director of Development, a director returning to the board, a new director and a new president.
Nathan Swords of Stevensville became Director of Development in August. He earned a bachelor’s in organizational communication with a management minor and a master’s degree, both cum laude, from Western Michigan University in 2012 and 2014. He also taught public speaking at WMU.
Swords’ previous work experiences span recruitment, management and supervision, sales, training and development, and translational writing/public relations.
“I think SMC saw in me somebody who’s really motivated,” Swords said. “I’m in a position in my life professionally where I’ve come to understand how much I love higher education, community colleges specifically. College can transform an individual. Community college represents a unique opportunity for those who may not have opportunities elsewhere. I’m a walking example because it was a springboard that opened a lot of doors and showed me pathways I could take. I want to be in a position to give back and help those in the position I was in”, which was graduating from River Valley High School in Three Oaks seeing just two possibilities — professional athlete or CEO.
“I got hooked on academics during my undergrad and into my master’s degree,” Swords said. “The trajectory changed to ‘I’m going to be a professor,’ but I also love writing,” including grants, “doing research and I still teach online classes. But I also love building relationships, engaging with people and getting involved with the community. This position encapsulates all my skill sets.”
Tom Swartz of Cassopolis first joined the SMC Foundation board in 2004, serving as vice president (2004-2009) and president (2009-2013), and returns as a director this year.
Swartz retired from the University of Notre Dame after 45 years as a member of its teaching and research faculty. The economics professor was a founding member and chair of its Faculty Senate, helped establish its London undergraduate program and founded the London Summer Program. He taught more than 15,000 students and received Notre Dame’s three most prestigious teaching awards.
Swartz holds a doctorate from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Ohio University and a bachelor’s degree from Philadelphia’s LaSalle University. He served for more than 10 years as Cass County Planning Commission vice chair.
“It is important to assure high-quality education experiences in our community colleges. This is particularly important for first-generation college students. Jeanne and I are both first-generation college graduates,” he said. “Southwestern offers young folks in Cass County and beyond an introduction to higher education much like our undergraduate colleges.”
His wife, Jeanne Jourdan, was a St. Joseph County, Ind., Superior Court judge for 18 years, from 1981 until retiring from the bench.
Deborah Hackworth of Dowagiac is the Foundation’s newest director. She has been Director of Advocacy Services since 2016 for Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services (DASAS). She first joined the Three Rivers-based agency in 2011.
“I am excited about the opportunity to help young people reach their academic and life goals in a significant way,” said Hackworth, who is an ordained Faith Bible Church minister and certified life coach. She has been active with the Minority Coalition of Cass County since 2008.
Carole Schmidt, Ph.D., became the foundation’s president in March.
Schmidt, of Magician Lake, retired in June 2016 after five years as superintendent of South Bend Community Schools and three years each in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. Her career began in 1968 teaching English at Dowagiac Central Middle School.
Schmidt, a Central Michigan University graduate, earned her master’s degree in counseling and guidance and her doctorate in teaching and teacher education from the University of Arizona. She also has chaired the United Way of Southwest Michigan campaign.
“My goals are to support the new Director of Development and to strengthen the Foundation’s connection with the students, perhaps as mentors. I would like to have the Foundation be able to offer grants for specific student learning projects that may need extra support. Our donors are very generous, so we would like to have a broader impact and connection to the SMC community,” Schmidt said.
The SMC Foundation has provided the College with $2.6 million in scholarships since 1990, including $250,000 during the 2018-19 academic year.