Retirees share their memories of HFC
A large number of faculty and staff are retiring from the College this year. We reached out to ask them to share stories from their time at HFC (or HFCC), the changes they’ve seen, what they will miss the most, and their retirement plans.
Who is retiring?
List of retirees from May 2020 to the present:
Dr. Bill Barber
Dr. David Cunningham
Dr. Charles Jacobs
Dr. Patricia Lanzon
Dr. Gary McIlroy
David Smolen Debbie Szymanski
Dr. Maureen Webster
Dr. Warren Yeakel
This work changes hearts and lives
“I have loved working with the wonderful staff at HFC as well as the inspiring students, who have overcome daunting challenges to complete their educational goals,” said counselor Dr. Maureen Webster, who has been at HFC for 33 years. “I’ve watched the College grow and prosper during some very lean economic periods (which) has been reassuring to the Dearborn community and gratifying to me, personally, because I know that this has been a team effort built on an unwavering faith in the mission of our College to educate a diverse student population.”
Webster’s fellow counselor, Diane Green, has been at HFC for 45 years.
“I entered the College on the shoulders of amazing and wonderful professional men and women who mentored me and helped me grow as a professional (Helen Wormell, Gene Brazell, Dorothy Lee, John McDonald, Bill Hackett, and Paul Winslow, to name a few). It was during those early years that my passion and love for Henry Ford (Community) College began to bud, and it has been through the years that have followed that it has flourished. But we must remain vigilant in providing our life-blood -- our students -- what they need to be successful. Counselors must be a visible and intricate part of the process. Today, many students don't know we exist at a time when they need us most,” said Green.
Jacqueline Lawson, who has been a business instructor for 15 years at HFC, praised the counselors for being there for her whenever she called.
“When students begin a semester quiet and withdrawn, telling you they know absolutely nothing about the subject... and then, at the end of the semester, they tell you how much they learned and how confident they are about using what they learned, it is very rewarding,” said Lawson. “It is gratifying when a student sends you a card or an email letting you know about a position secured or a promotion received. In some cases, we are their ‘parents.’ First generation students may not have the support they need at home. We are the ones to gently remind them to ‘do your homework.’”
Caie-Lawrence reflects on her 22 years at HFC
Janice Caie-Lawrence has been proud to have been part of the nursing faculty at HFC for 22 years. For her, it’s not her job but her calling.
“Coming from teaching Community Health Nursing at a university for 13 years, I was astounded when I first came to the College in 1999 to see the quality of resources available to our students in the community college setting. I'm a huge proponent, as we all are, of the community college and HFC, of course, specifically. Speaking of community, another great memory was setting up a partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Southeastern Michigan providing vaccinations in the community, including HFC!”
This unique clinical rotation took place in the students' third semester medical-surgical course. Caie-Lawrence selected students from their assigned hospital clinical rotation for a one-day experience to visit a community site (schools, businesses, et al) for immunization instruction and providing both pneumonia and influenza vaccinations.
During the H1N1 outbreak, Caie-Lawrence recalled people being lined up outside a school building in Detroit on a Saturday for blocks and blocks, waiting hours for their turn. She and her students stepped up.
“We were so instrumental that day in helping out – each of the students was able to provide 25 or more injections. They left that day going from a novice student nurse to an advanced beginner. Their confidence soared. It was an experience they'll never forget. Nor will I,” she said. “I was and continue to be so proud of our nursing students providing services to all they are in contact with and now, with the pandemic, developing a resilience to be out on the front lines of health care.”
Innovative "evacuation" to make renovations possible
For Dr. Charles Jacobs, who has taught biology at HFC for 25 years, the best part about working at the College was the interaction with his colleagues.
“The vast majority of them were dedicated, strongly interested in student success, and most of all, friendly members of a team who were willing to pull together,” he said. “I think a great example of how we pulled together was a few years ago when we were renovating the science building. Often, when big renovations are done, they will move the affected departments into ‘swing space,’ which is temporarily repurposed to meet the needs of the people being moved out for the renovations. In our case, we needed offices, classrooms, and labs.”
The problem was, there was no excess space. If the science building was closed down for renovations, the science faculty had no place to go.
The planners suggested they could do the project in phases, and disrupt everything for about three years while people and courses were shuffled around, working with reduced scheduling.
“Nobody liked that idea,” said Jacobs. “I was talking with a colleague at another school who had just been through a complete renovation of their science building, and she suggested an idea that, at first, seemed unworkable: Cancel summer classes, shorten the preceding winter and subsequent fall classes to a 12-week schedule, and turn the building over to the construction team from April until late September.”
The faculty was unanimously on board, even though it meant redesigning courses and packing during the shortened semester, then relocating for almost six months, said Jacobs. The faculty worked together and with lab managers to plan and organize the move.
“Not only did we have to pack up everything, we had to know where it all was, because we would have one week to put it all back together when we moved back in,” he said. “And it had to be ready. There was no way to continue the move once classes started. Moving out of the building was more like an evacuation than a move. Because everybody pulled together, we were able to pack up the entire building in less than two weeks. Faculty came in to organize and pack their labs. Adjuncts volunteered their time to help bubble-wrap delicate equipment. When we got possession of the building a week before classes, the whole thing happened in reverse. Without strife, without grumbling, without complaining, we worked together to pull it off!”
Changes, expected and unexpected
Changes will happen over any lengthy period of time at the College. Lawson witnessed firsthand the development of the College’s four schools in the last few years:
• The School of Liberal Arts (SOLA)
• The School of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Professional Development (BEPD)
• The School of Health and Human Services (HHS)
• The School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
Another recent change includes moving the Nursing Program to the East Campus. For Bonnie Jobe, who has taught health and fitness at HFC for 44 years, raising the funds to refurbish the entire Renal Therapy Department with state-of-the-art dialysis equipment and flat-screen TVs is a point of pride.
“I am very proud of this accomplishment to help others,” she said.
Karen Wilmering also saw a lot of positive change. “I saw the outstanding relationships that could be developed between HFC and the Dearborn community, as well as relationships with our local 4-year institutions,” said Wilmering, who has been the Interior Design program coordinator for 12 years. Case in point: Her students have renovated two apartment homes at Henry Ford Village, a retirement community in Dearborn.
Connecting with neighboring UM-Dearborn to help students reach their goals
The changes go back further for Green and Jacobs.
The Counseling Division took the lead in initiating HFC’s first articulation agreement in 1979 with the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-Dearborn). The articulation agreement embraced any two-year associate degree that was successfully completed at HFC for UM-Dearborn’s bachelor’s degree in general studies, noted Green.
“Counseling shepherded articulation agreements, in collaboration with the academic areas of the College, until about 7-8 years ago,” recalled Green. “The Counseling Division developed and directed the first comprehensive student orientation program that included collaboration with all the areas of Student Services, Student Activities, Campus Safety, and teaching faculty. The orientation program was in place for at least 10 years, and then gave way to our first online orientation program, which Counseling helped develop. Counseling supported counselor Gene Brazell in developing and initiating the Focus On Women Office, which is now Student Outreach and Support (SOS).”
Green also witnessed how HFC grew from 6-7 buildings to the current 14 structures on its main campus, as well as the growth of its East campus.
“I was a member of the team that developed College Success, a counseling course that is now taught in the Dearborn Public Schools’ three high schools and is required of students in Henry Ford Early College, the Henry Ford Collegiate Academy, and Detroit Promise. I negotiated, hired, and trained the first cohort of 11 academic advisors,” said Green.
Academic and Technical education find common ground
When Jacobs first came to the College in 1996, he found two distinct groups on campus: technical and academic. Each had its own vice president, culture, and processes, he explained.
“Even our vocabulary supported the idea that we were running two separate operations on the same campus. We referred to them as the ‘academic side’ and the ‘technical side.’
The two enterprises competed for faculty positions, space, and budget. "There was metaphorical concertina wire running down the middle of the campus,” recalled Jacobs.
In the early 2000s, enrollment was growing. The campus was running out of space for classes. Due to economic factors, enrollment in the technical areas was not growing, and there were some available classrooms in the technical buildings. The classrooms weren't readily shared until then-Associate Dean of Health Careers Ron Bodurka stepped forward.
“Ron had several classrooms that were vacant during the middle of the day. He offered me space to teach an anatomy class in the Health Careers building. Soon after that, he offered me space to set up an anatomy lab in a study area in the same building, so we could provide enough sections for the students going into his programs,” said Jacobs. “This was really novel, because there had never been this kind of cooperation. The associate deans got together and decided that the only way for the College to succeed was to pool our resources. Soon we had English and math sections meeting in the Technical Building, and academic departments offering extra sections to meet the scheduling needs of technical departments.”
“This all worked because a small group of associate deans decided to change an unworkable paradigm. Today, there is little to remind us of that untenable structure. It all started because a small group put the good of the College first. It marked a major turning point in our evolution toward being a cohesive College.”
The best advice, developed over decades
In her 37 years at HFC, health and physical education professor Dr. Carole Sloan always advised new faculty members to reach out beyond their academic departments.
“While at HFC, I served on almost every committee at the College. Serving on these committees is a great way to understand how the College operates and to have input into the College’s operations,” said Sloan. “There are so many good things about HFC. Being part of a union that negotiated a contract that provided a good standard of living. The union and Faculty Senate have worked tirelessly to share in the operation of the College, and this made the College a special place to work. Though I experienced an administration that supported me and gave me anything I needed to be successful in the classroom, it was helpful to know that the union always had my back if a problem were to arise. This gave me the confidence to speak up for what I thought was best for the students.”
Webster agreed with Sloan.
“As a colleague told me years ago, be flexible and willing to take on new assignments,” she said. “Also, involve yourself on committees and leadership positions at the College to learn new skills and meet people in different settings. Finally, be kind and considerate of others, treating everyone with the respect they deserve.”
“There is no limit to what you can achieve in our program. We have had international student design competition winners, partnered with our Dearborn community to design and renovate existing spaces. We developed transfer agreements with local colleges and universities. Set your goals high, and believe in our students and the quality of our design program,” said Wilmering. “As program coordinator, I would meet students who were young and unclear as to their future. It was my honor and privilege to advise and assist them through their journey. When they had that moment when they really knew what they wanted to do with their life and career, I felt I had a real impact. I felt like a proud ‘parent’ as I watched each student walk across the stage to receive their diploma.”
Jacobs recalled the advice HFC President Emeritus Dr. Andrew A. Mazzara gave him, which he has since passed on to his colleagues.
“Remember, you are part of a team that's working toward a single goal: Giving the students the best education possible,” said Jacobs. “Andy Mazzara once told me that our competition wasn't just the other community colleges, but also the 4-year schools. We need to be offering our students an education that's as good as or better than they could get at the University of Michigan, Wayne State, Eastern Michigan University, and the like.”
What will retirement look like?
Most of the retirees’ retirement plans are similar: Catch up on sleep. Spend time with their families, especially grandchildren. Many want to travel once that’s safe again. Wilmering hopes to take up painting.
Asked what they’ll miss most, it’s the people – students and colleagues.
“My colleagues, whom I love dearly, and the students who have kept me young and my mind agile!” said Green.
“It's been such an incredible experience meeting all of the fabulous individuals whom I have had the privilege of knowing,” said Webster. “They have touched my life, and I will never forget them!”
Added Caie-Lawrence: “The people. Students, faculty, staff, administrators. Everyone. Not teaching in person, teaching face-to-face when the pandemic is over.”
Wilmering will miss teaching too.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to be the program lead for interior design,” said Wilmering. “It has given me memories that I will cherish my entire life! The most THANKFUL job is being a teacher at HFC!”
HFC's heartfelt thanks to all retirees
On behalf of President Kavalhuna, the HFC Board of Trustees, and all of us at Henry Ford College:
Thank you, retirees, for your years of valuable service and dedication to Henry Ford College. You have changed us, and you have been the best of us. We will miss you. We wish you a long and happy retirement! And, when we are back on campus, stop in to see us.