Sawyer inauguration begins new chapter at MCC

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 9, 2018

 Macomb Community College President James Sawyer is inaugurated Feb. 2 at the South Campus in Warren, becoming the sixth president of the school.

Macomb Community College President James Sawyer is inaugurated Feb. 2 at the South Campus in Warren, becoming the sixth president of the school.

Photo by Maria Allard

WARREN — At first, new Macomb Community College President James Sawyer was uncomfortable with the idea of an inauguration in his honor.

But after discussions with college staff and community members, he appreciated the chance to celebrate the school’s faculty and students, and to highlight the next phase for the college.

“It’s not about seeking the limelight or credit or creating a stir; it’s about getting the job done,” he said during his Feb. 2 inauguration at the student center building at MCC South Campus in Warren. Elected officials, community leaders, staff, students and family attended the event.

Sawyer, who spent many years working in industry, first came to the college in 2002 after the company at which he was employed closed and left about 400 people out of work. While at MCC, Sawyer found inspiration among his colleagues and discovered he really wanted to help students achieve their potential. So he left the field of industry to work in education.

“I still have a hard time believing that this is where my career has taken me. But I can think of no better purpose than inspiring potential, fostering success and transforming lives,” he said.

Sawyer is the college’s sixth president. He officially began in the role July 1, and his current contract is for three years. He has 15 years of experience at the college, including as provost and senior vice president for the Learning Unit.

During the inauguration, Sawyer said the college has nearly 20,000 students in degree programs and another 15,000 individuals in workforce and continuing education programs. He added that some students rely on MCC as a “high-quality yet affordable alternative” to their first two years of a bachelor’s degree.

“Others turn to the college for career preparation programs which directly link them to meaningful workplace opportunities,” Sawyer said. “We have some students who come to the college only to take specific classes, and there are others who have been displaced from the workforce and are retraining to gain in-demand skills.”

Sawyer also revealed that high-quality programs, affordable tuition and access to the college don’t automatically translate into success.

“While we have highly prepared students who enroll at Macomb, we also have those who are not ready to perform college-level work when they first arrive on campus,” Sawyer said. “More than 70 percent of our students attend part time because they have other obligations, which may involve supporting a family, and a significant number of them face barriers and obstacles outside the classroom that can curtail their ability to attend school.”

Sawyer holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Lawrence Technological University, and a Master of Science in administration and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from Central Michigan University. The Utica High School graduate has lived in Macomb County since 1976, when his family moved from northwest Detroit to Sterling Heights.

Several individuals spoke in the president’s honor at the inauguration, and William Tammone, MCC provost and vice president of the Learning Unit, provided the welcome. James A. Friedman, pastor/chaplain faculty at Macomb’s Public Service Institute, presented the invocation.

Other guest speakers included Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna, MCC student Muhammad Elgammal, MCC professor Cheryl Sypniewski and MCC Board of Trustees Chair Jennifer Haase.

“We are in good hands with Dr. Jim Sawyer as president,” Sypniewski said. “His commitment to education and his positive attitude make Macomb Community College our community college.”

Manna said MCC has been very welcoming to immigrants who enroll at the school and also reminded the audience of the need for schools such as MCC.
“They became very proactive and are willing to embrace change,” Manna said. “It’s no secret community colleges will be leading the efforts to providing a skilled workforce.”

“After a comprehensive national search, you were the clear and right choice for the college and the community,” Haase said to the new president. “Three words will serve as a guide in shaping (the college): integrity, intelligence and leadership. They capture the spirit in which the college was founded.”

At the start of the inauguration, the Macombers sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Selfridge Air National Guard 127th Wing presented the posting of the colors, and professor Thomas Cook and an ensemble performed “The Prince of Denmark’s March” during the procession.