The Most Interesting Man in the World

What makes an individual interesting? Is it their qualifications, education, activities, or something else? I would venture to say that it is all of the above plus character, demeanor, and a series of other … je ne sais quoi…X factors.

In my regular interaction with students and youth, I always ask them, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” A pilot? That’s what my 13 year-old tells me he wants to be. A physician? I know a few of those and have been treated by many. A lawyer? I know several of those and fortunately have not had to be defended by any. A tennis coach? I can only dream. A musician? I sing, but only in the shower. All worthy professions, but what does it take to achieve any of that?

Just two days of ago, on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, I was privileged to have sat next to a gentleman that I consider the most interesting man in the world (no, not that guy in those television commercials!) This soft-spoken scholar of a man is in his early seventies, was with his family – two young children (the youngest was 10) and a wife who was obviously much younger. That is interesting enough, but there is more. He was born in the Caribbean – a black man, one of eight children, and educated at Cambridge University in England, where he currently resides, after having lived in. It gets more interesting. I was intrigued when he mentioned that he and his wife run tennis camps in England (I am a tennis fan, I try to play and follow all the tournaments on the internet). By the way, the flight was 8 hours and we did not talk all the time, our conversation was limited as we watched movies and slept part of the way (I did, but he never appeared to have shut his eyes for a second, nor did he ever get up to use the restroom – I did a few times).

He began our conversation by emphasizing the importance of education, so he captured my attention right away. He preempted many of my education lines, but I managed to get in, “education is the cure for poverty, key to success and roadmap to prosperity”. He told me that he trains individuals who want to teach to obtain certification in order to do so. You see, in England one must pass a rigorous certification examination to teach at any level. Then, as I continued to coax information out of this gentleman, he informed me that he was trained as a medical doctor, practiced as a gynecologist for over 20 years, and then decided to move out of that profession, so he became a lawyer! Oh, there is more! Besides that he is a musician and a pilot! He flew cargo planes for years before going to Cambridge, and still flies to this day. Mind you that he released all this information bit by bit, not all at once.

I say “Dr. G” is the most interesting man in the world not because of his qualifications and numerous achievements, but especially because of his self-effacing attitude, modesty, and humility. That’s how I want to be when I grow up.

Turning Point Program — COMPASS Prep Comes to MCCC

There is absolutely no doubt that an individual who is better prepared for an examination, or for that matter anything, will invariably do better than one who is not. This simple concept applies to sports, examinations, and anything in life. Period.

When I was in the classroom as a professor of economics, I NEVER gave my students an examination without first reviewing the material with them. NEVER! I would set aside time outside of the classroom when I would go over the important material, emphasizing the critical concepts that they needed to retain in order to fare well. It has been many years, but I have many of my former students who find me on Facebook and tell me how much they appreciated how I impacted their lives. Indeed, some of the statements (positive) have brought me to tears. As I have gotten older, I have begun to pose the question, “what would I want for my own children?” No doubt I did for those students that I mentored and nurtured what I would have wanted for my own kids.

What is unfortunate about many of the students who come to institutions like MCCC is that they are not like my kids; they are more like what I was when I was younger. My children are privileged, they have never had to do without, they are not first generation, and they were not unprepared for college. I, on the other hand, was first generation, I lived in the ghettoes of Baltimore, I faced extreme poverty (on my own after I left home – my parents were not poor, but I became poor), and I was unprepared for college.

Knowing all this about myself and realizing that a higher education would cure my poverty, open the doors of success, and provide me with that ticket to the middle class, I decided, prior to enrolling in college to prepare myself for it. So, I spent months preparing for the SAT and more time preparing for the placement test that I knew would determine which classes I took in college. My preparation paid off. I tested out of mathematics, and out of English 101. Had I not prepared, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would have ended up in remedial/developmental mathematics and a lower level English class. That is the power of preparation. I recently paid for my daughter to take a GRE preparation course – preparation makes a difference.

As a college president who has been where many of our students are, I understand and can empathize and sympathize with them. That statement begs the question: what are we doing about it? MCCC, in collaboration with the Learning Bank, has created the Turning Point Program. Turning Point is a test preparation program for the COMPASS and GED. This is a great start for those who want to achieve college success. The program meets on campus in the CTC on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and at the Learning Bank on Mondays through Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. it is FREE and open to the public, especially MCCC students who want to improve their placement test scores. In addition to this, MCCC also offers COMPASS test preparation through our Corporate and Community Services for $25. Furthermore, all students who register for classes at MCCC are provided with information on FREE TUTORIALS and practice tests for the COMPASS and ACT. One such example is

No doubt, students who take advantage of these services will fare better, be less likely to be placed in developmental courses, and be well poised for success. Please tell everyone you know about these services that MCCC provides to our community. Availing themselves of these services will not only enrich and transform students’ lives, but make MCCC a better institution and help take the entire community to the next level.

Juneteenth and the 4th of July

As the month of June comes to an end and as the 4th of July approaches, I wanted to acquaint the unfamiliar and remind the familiar of the celebration of Juneteenth. I am sure there are many who have never heard of this concept

So what is it? Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American emancipation. June 19, 1865 was the day that slavery ended in the United States.  On that day, Major General Gordon Granger, went into the last stronghold of slavery in the United States, Galveston, Texas and declared an end to slavery. You see, slaves were still being kept in Galveston after they had been officially freed. This was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation (which officially ended slavery).

It is important for every American, not just African-Americans, to understand the significance of Juneteenth, even as the 4th of July is celebrated — in a day when the Confederate flag still flies over the capital of South Carolina and is incorporated into that of some other southern states. As we celebrate the 4th of July this weekend, let’s remember those who died during the Revolutionary War, the many who died during the Civil War to end slavery, and those who lost their lives in Charleston just last week because some people can simply not let go of hate.

Safety and Vigilance

As a college president, and especially as a human being with some intellectual capacity, there is always a lot on my mind. I continually think about how to respond to events in the local community as well as national and international events. Should I remain silent and keep my thoughts to myself, or should I engage the wider community in discussions about the events? Typically, we engage the community utilizing our Current and Cultural Affairs Series as a conduit for these discussions. We have had many of those, several focusing on issues of diversity and race. In terms of what’s in the national news now, we have been ahead of the curve.

In light of the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, I want to focus this article on Safety, not race, multiculturalism or diversity. Everyone has a right to feel safe in the normal course of the day, especially at a place of worship. It appears there are so few safe places these days – offices are not safe, schools are not safe, the streets are not safe, and now even places of worship – the sanctuaries of security – are not safe. That, unfortunately, is the world in which we live. I once heard a security expert say that when he sits in a room, he always sits facing the entrance, never with his back to the door. He also stated that he avoids “soft targets” such as malls and other public venues. I am not sure we can all live this way in this great land of freedom and liberty.

While we are fortunate to live in the security of Monroe, it is important to note that we need to remain vigilant.  At the risk of sounding alarmist, I implore you to please report any suspicious activity anywhere you go and do not take safety for granted. The world in which we live is not what it used to be.

Revised Mission and Vision Statements

Recently we revised the MCCC Mission and Vision. This revisions have not changed who we are or what we do. The revisions simply put in focus, with certain key words, what we are, what we do, and what we continually strive to accomplish.

The Old Mission Statement reads as follows:

Monroe County Community College provides a variety of higher education opportunities to enrich the lives of the residents of Monroe County.

The new statement is:

Monroe County Community College enriches and transforms lives by providing opportunity and excellence in higher education.

The new Mission Statement is clearly more powerful and not as limiting. Not only are we enriching lives, we are transforming lives   “….by providing opportunity and excellence in higher education.” In essence, we have been able to strengthen the mission statement with fewer words. It is more succinct, robust, and focused.

The Vision Statement was also enhanced. The old Vision Statement reads as follows:

Monroe County Community College aspires to be our community’s first choice for higher learning.

The new Vision Statement is:

Monroe County Community College will be an innovative and progressive higher education institution and our community’s first choice for a quality post-secondary education.

The words “innovative”, “progressive”, and “quality” are clearly more aspirational, while the expression, “will be” is more definitive in terms of where we are going as an institution.

It is worth noting that all this work was done while working on a detailed Strategic Planning document.

Thanks so much to the faculty, staff, students, Board, and community members who wrote, rewrote, edited, and revised these statements over the past several months.  Now, we move forward together to continue enriching and transforming lives as we aspire to be the best that we can be.

Tragedy in Ghana

Yesterday, the first bit of news I heard as I turned on my television was that there had been “….an explosion in the African nation of Ghana”. The explosion was due to a series of events which were precipitated by heavy rainfall and severe flooding. A tragedy of immense proportions, which so far has claimed in excess of 100 lives. The pictures are too gruesome to watch.

There are so many tragic occurrences all over the world: capsized ships in China, floods in Houston, riots in Baltimore, terrorist attacks in Kenya, Syria, and Nigeria, earthquakes in Nepal, and so many more. Many of us are fortunate to not live in areas where these events occur; for that we are thankful.

Please keep the people of Ghana (where I have family) in your thoughts and/or prayers during this time of mourning.

Deb Beagle — In Memoriam

On Sunday of this week, we received word that our beloved Comptroller, Debra Beagle had passed away. I could not believe it! Deb had been ill for a few months, and I for one was expecting her to recover and come back to work as part of the MCCC family. Then this? It was difficult to accept, but Deb was buried yesterday in Adrian. She was only 57 and left behind two young sons and a loving husband.

Deb was a hard worker who commuted almost an hour one way from Adrian to MCCC. She was a diligent and dedicated worker who worked many long hours – she arrived early, left late, and even came in on the weekends. She loved her job and was very good at it –she was the quintessential accountant.

Deb is gone now. In her honor, MCCC will establish a scholarship. Please continue to wear the black ribbons in her honor and memory. She will be sorely missed. May her soul rest in peace.