Trustee Dr. Michael Meade reflects on 40 years of College service as he retires from the Board
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Michael Meade has served HFC in numerous capacities: counselor, vice president, acting president. Since 2014, he has served as a member of the HFC Board of Trustees.
Meade retired from the Board in December (as did fellow Board member Mary Lane).
“I feel privileged to have served, and I have a learned a lot about public education from the perspective of the Board. I appreciate the community’s support for both the College and Dearborn Public Schools. HFC is unique because it’s the only community college in Michigan to be affiliated with a P-12 school district. I will miss my interactions with President Russell Kavalhuna and Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko,” said Meade.
“With the retirement of Dr. Mike Meade and Mary Lane, the Board is losing two invaluable members,” said former Board member/Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mariam Bazzi. “Dr. Meade's experience with the College helped navigate the Board through transitional times. His common sense, good humor, and dedication will be missed.”
More than 50 years in higher ed
Born in Jackson and raised in East Lansing, Meade lives in Dearborn with his wife of 55 years, Margie, a retired speech instructor at HFC. Together, they have four children and six grandchildren. A graduate of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Meade earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He later earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. – both in guidance and counseling – from the Catholic University of America) in Washington, D.C. He also completed graduate work in theology at CUA.
The bulk of Meade’s career has been in higher education. He has served as an instructor at Davenport University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-Dearborn), and George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. He has also been active in addressing the educational, social, and business needs of southeastern Michigan, serving in a variety of roles with the Southern Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), the Exchange Club of Dearborn, and an educational task force with the Dearborn schools and the City of Dearborn.
Originally, Meade planned to enter the priesthood. However, he “fell in love” with guidance and counseling, deciding to make that his career. He began his career in counseling in 1965 as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Washington, D.C. before going into higher education.
“I have never looked back," said Meade.
Community colleges reflect needs of the community
In 1966, Meade read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the community college movement. The article’s emphasis was on the community college policy of open enrollment.
“I was immediately taken with this concept as it mirrored my training in the seminary, which taught me that all are welcome to be members, whether they’re rich or poor, black or white, etc.,” he explained. “Universities had admission policies that limited those who could pursue a college education. This wasn’t the case with community colleges. I was, and still am, moved by this significant democratic policy.”
Meade applied to Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) in Alexandria, VA and what is now Montgomery College (MC) in Montgomery County, MD. He interviewed for counseling positions at both schools on the same day. The next day, he received offers from both schools. He selected MC, as it was closer to his then-home in Silver Springs, MD.
“I discovered that I was one of 70 new faculty hires for MC,” he said. “In 1965, the community college movement was growing by a new community college each week. So there was a need to hire faculty.”
Community college movement
The programs and curricula offered at community colleges reflect employers’ needs and the community, according to Meade. Community college students are primarily local people who wish to stay and live in their communities. They don’t have to travel outside their community to get their post- secondary education. With a certificate or an associate degree, students can have a career in their community. Nearly 50 percent of first-year college students enroll in a community college.
“Faculty do not have to ‘publish or perish’ like they do in the universities,” said Meade. “Their job is to teach the subjects assigned to them. Their preparation to teach at a community college usually requires a master’s degree or higher.”
Although Meade wasn’t on the ground floor of the community college movement, he did make it to the second floor in 1966. According to Meade, the founders of the community college movement were William Rainey Harper, founding president of both the University of Chicago and Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and Dr. Henry Phillip Tappan, the founding president of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“These two presidents created the ‘junior college’ because they thought some freshmen and sophomores were too immature to leave home," said Meade. "They also thought these students were too limited to assist in the development of significant academic research. They wanted these students to study the basics of English, math, and science before seeking admission to a university. The vision of these two men led to the creation of the community college movement and – currently – the comprehensive community college. I am so thankful for their vision. We are all beholden to them.”
Returning to Michigan to work at HFC
Meade spent 16 years at MC. When he was the Dean of Student Services on the Germantown campus, Meade interviewed a man named Tom Kirkland, who subsequently became MC’s Vice President of Communications. Kirkland came from HFC, where he was the head of communications at the time.
Coincidentally enough, HFC which was one of five places where Meade was interviewing. Kirkland called the late Dr. Stuart Bundy, HFC’s president, and put in a good word on Meade’s behalf. Bundy brought the search committee to MC, where they spoke to many of Meade’s colleagues across its three campuses. In the end, Meade became the Vice President of Student Services at HFC, returning to his native Michigan in 1982.
“And the rest is history, cliché as it sounds,” he said. “Margie and I are most appreciative to the search committee, Tom Kirkland, Dr. Bundy, and the Board that I was hired at the College. We have been able to raise our four children in Dearborn, and they have thrived in this city. In fact, two of our children still live in this area with their families, while the other two live in Los Angeles with their families.”
Meade spoke about switching from counseling to administration.
“Counseling is a challenging profession. For me, the biggest challenge was I rarely saw results. Students don’t have a tendency to return to their counselors and thank them for their help. When I applied for the Dean of Students opening at MC, I recommended that counselors be decentralized, meaning they should be located near the faculty offices, so faculty could refer students to counselors whom they identified as needing assistance with decisions or defeating behaviors. This recommendation got me the interview with the chancellor, Dr. Stanley Dahlman. I was working as an administrator, which filled my need to get closure. I could complete goals identified by MC’s strategic plan,” he explained.
At HFC, Meade became the acting president from June 1, 1989 to June 30, 1990 between Bundy and HFC President Emeritus Dr. Andrew Mazzara. After his stint as acting president, he returned to his position as Vice President of Student Services until his retirement in 2005. He then returned to HFC as adjunct counselor from 2005 until his next retirement in 2014. That same year, he decided to run for the Board.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being the acting president, and I thought I might use that experience to become a president,” said Meade. “Instead, I finished my career at HFC. Many students have achieved their personal educational goals and are giving back to their communities. Graduation days for community college students have been some of the very best days of my life!”
Running for the Board of Trustees
“I had the good fortune to serve with Dr. Meade and Trustee Lane while I was the president of the College. Both are outstanding public servants wholly dedicated to educating the children and youth of our community. They contributed greatly to the quality education our students receive in the Dearborn schools and at HFC,” said Mazzara, who was president from 1990 to 2005.
According to Meade, representatives from the HFC Federation of Teachers, Local 1650 asked him to run for the Board.
“One of the reasons is that there are only a few HFC retirees who live in Dearborn, and being a Dearborn resident is a requirement for membership on the Board,” he said. “I ran because I thought there had never been a person who worked at the College who was on the Board. As part of my campaign, I told people that of the seven people on the Board, at least one member should be a representative of the College.”
Meade spoke about how the role of a Board member differs from the role of an administrator.
“The Board of made up of seven members. No one member speaks for all of the members. Decisions are made by a majority vote. This required a major adjustment for me,” he admitted. “As an administrator, I was used to the culture of each administrator giving his or her opinion, but only the president making the final decision.”
Meade continued: “An administrator does not get to determine policy, the strategic plan, or hire and evaluate the president. The Board of Trustees has the responsibility to do all of those. The Board must approve the strategic plan, then step aside. It should not micromanage and must let the president implement the strategic plan, which is the basis for evaluating the president. The best part of being a Board member has been selecting the president, evaluating the president, and approving a strategic plan that spans at least two years.”
HFC's current president, Russ Kavalhuna, is grateful for Trustee Meade's long service to the College, as well as his personal influence. "I know how deeply Dr. Meade cares about this College because of the way he always speaks about it and the way he talks about how it changes lives," said Kavalhuna. "He infused that in all the people he worked with, including me, and he has made me feel proud about that. Having worked at the College, Trustee Meade provided a unique voice, earned the trust of his colleagues, and served with great distinction. I will miss working with him on the Board."
Faculty are among the College's greatest strengths
HFC is one of the state’s oldest community colleges. It developed relevant programs that have served the community and students for more than 80 years. The College has always had dedicated faculty who have been historically involved in the development of curricula and courses to deliver the knowledge and skills required for students to work in the communities of Southeast Michigan. Meade noted that a strength of HFC has always been its faculty.
“Faculty have been heavily involved in the recommendation of policies to the administration and the Board of Trustees. The reputation of the College has been created by the faculty, hence HFC continues to attract students all over Southeast Michigan,” said Meade. “The faculty has been focused on service to our students and the integrity of content for all courses offered. The Higher Learning Commission has continuously accredited the College, demonstrating its approval of the College and its mission.”
Leaving HFC in good hands
Looking back on his 38 years of connection with HFC, Meade has seen firsthand has it changed and grown – for the better.
“I have been very impressed with the professional educators at HFC. I have enjoyed working with them. I have found them to be genuinely interested in the success of our students, as well as the success of the College. They are sincere in the effort to educate our students,” he said.
In retirement, Meade plans to spend time with his family, catch up on some reading and writing, and volunteer and eventually counsel students o help them achieve their goals. He acknowledges he will always be connected to higher education.
“We have an effective leader in our current president," he said. "He has a vision for the future of the College. He wants HFC to be a successful institution by serving students by offering community-based programs, which give students the knowledge and skills to either directly enter to the economy or transfer to a four-year university. I know the College is in good hands.”