Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Dunn - President of Western Michigan University - 'He's One of Us!'

“If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society...  John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University

College leaders in America are too often anything but leaders.  They seem to be more interested in sucking up to the political and cultural demands of grant making foundations than they are in the students they should serve.

Parents ask, "How in the world will my daughter compete in this world armed with a bachelor of arts degree in Comic Books ( graphic novels) and a minor in gender and identity?"

Woefully, folks.

It is not just the coastal elite universities and colleges that happen to be dominated by stiffs and frauds with advanced degrees.  Inland Seas States are not immune, Minnesota first represented in the US Senate by James J. Shields and home to scions of thick-pawed Swedes and Norwegians offered the follwing from its moss -backed faculty lounges
ST. PAUL, Minn. – There’s a major controversy within the state of Minnesota over how K-12 students are taught U.S. history.
Minnesota’s top education officials are proposing new social studies standards that would no longer require students to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., the War on Terror, the Soviet Union or the importance of patriotism.
Instead, students would be required to learn about America’s “institutional racism,” “the rise of big business,” and the problems posed by an “unregulated capitalist economy.”
In other words, some want to change the curriculum so history instructors teach children that the United States is a bad country with an evil past.
 Tum delirum esse in Arcadia !  as Publius Virgilius Maro might shout; he's dead white guy. Yes, Brethren and Sistren, stupid is right down the block.  Tread carefully the path to high learning.

My daughter chose Western Michigan University.  Thanks be to God.  All I knew of this school was the fact that Danny O'Brien pitched for the Broncos before playing a few semesters in the pros. Here on the south side of Chicago our kids tend to choose colleges as extensions of the parish grammar school/Catholic high school matriculation.  Go to St. Cajetans (Pre-8), jump to Mother McAuley, or Mount Carmel and then head to the economically sound Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois or Illinois State Universities.  South siders pal-up for life.

My daughter Clare decided upon WMU in her sophomore year despite my cries of " It's Out of State!!!!!!"   I KNOW Dad.

WMU was Clare's first choice and acceptance.  There were others but they went immediately into the basket containing the ads from Miller Appliances/Time-Share opportunities and Obama 2012 solicitations. I am a Bronco Dad!

The Orientation was this week.  This was not my first rodeo.  Eldest child Nora went Western University and Conor went to La Lumiere. Both kids are gainfully employed members of the AMERICAN WORKFORCE. I am blessed.

College and boarding school orientations are as fun as a good gum scraping.  Organized group session, break-out sessions, and group chats raise the many hackles of my simian back.  I am a veteran high school teacher and coach.  High school teacher/coaches are about as well behave in group settings as cops and fireman at beer buffet prepared hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Supt. McCarthy. I am an especially bad member of any audience to any presentation not about  sexist or ethnic humor.

The Orientation for in-coming freshmen and parents at WMU was all that and more.  Cross campus walks, PNC banking side-shows, REALLY peppy Bronco WOOOOOO Shouters and more handouts than Jehovah's Witness ladies at the Dunkin Donuts on Wednesdays.

Amid the much expected and necessary organized fun and group Novocaining, emerged President John Dunn, leader WMU since 2007.  Western Michigan University is ranked in top 100 American universities by US News & World Report and Princeton Review. WMU has been so listed for last 22 years; however, President Dunn appears to have captured the soul of school.

President Dunn crashed the student presentation given to parents and incomers on Wednesday afternoon, as the Board of Directors meeting took a short break.  Mr. Dunn is a lively and witty guy without a hint of pretense.   He addressed the families like neighbor who has popped onto the driveway with Mayflower van still blocking the public sidewalk.  "Need any help?  Welcome to town!"

Upon August arrival, Dunn admonished the Young Broncos to not only introduce themselves to, but get to know the most important people necessary to their college lives  - the maintenance crews, the food service people, the bus drivers, the health care nurses, the security personnel, the landscapers and construction crews.  President Dunn explained that everyone on this campus was there to help them and that it was incumbent upon students to get to know those folks,  That, he told the kids, was how to become educated.  Respect for each person's work and life is Dunn's dictum.

I was wowed.  The campus is immaculate and happy people work hard everywhere one turns.  No class war-fare.  Respect.

President John Dunn asked the parents to keep in touch. I asked some the students working off tuition about their President and heard nothing but genuine praise and admiration.  " He's here all the time -literally and always ready to ask about our day."

I read this about President John Dunn's early days on campus,
" On Monday, WMU acknowledged its eighth chapter, formally installing John M. Dunn president, in an inaguration ceremony that heaped accolades on a new campus chief who has quickly become regarded as a tireless worker and approachable leader since his hiring last summer.
"You can feel in the pulse of this university, even in nine months here, that this campus's heart and soul has been reinvigorated by your leadership," WMU senior Chris Praedel described to Dunn and an audience of hundreds attending the ceremony at Miller Auditorium.
He's "one of us" said faculty union head, Paul T. Wilson.

You got that right Mr. Wilson.  He is one of us.  That is the Idea of a University.

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