Macomb Community College president to leave in 2017

Tenure will end after 50 years of service

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 23, 2016

 Jim Jacobs

Jim Jacobs

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MACOMB COUNTY — The end of the 2016-17 Macomb Community College school year will mark a special time in the lives of many students.

It will also be a life-changing moment for current President Jim Jacobs.

Jacobs, who has been president since July 1, 2008, will step down from his position in June 2017. After a half-century’s worth of service, he informed the college’s Board of Trustees of his intent to not renew what has been a rolling contract.

Jacobs didn’t deem his decision newsworthy, saying he is simply making a life choice as others do all the time.

He said his decision was a way to allow the board to go through the process of successfully choosing his successor. There was no formal announcement, he clarified.

There is no exact process to replace Jacobs, and it will be up to the board to conduct the search. He hopes the transition will be as seamless as it was for him in 2008.

“I inherited a very good institution that was administratively and financially sound, relevant to common interests and doing great things in the community with a very talented staff.

“It provided a tremendous opportunity for me to be president.”

The Brooklyn-born man has worked at the college since the summer of 1967. After completing undergrad studies at Harpur College — which is now part of Binghamton University in New York — he completed his graduate and doctorate work in politics at Princeton University.

He recalled developing interest in community colleges, which were emerging as new institutions on a postsecondary level. He took a course at the University of Michigan in 1967, where he became associated with someone who mentioned a new institution called Macomb Community College.

That summer he went to speak at MCC, which was just beginning to hold classes in its Warren-located South Campus. He was then offered a part-time position.

“One of the things I really enjoyed from my interactions with students and the staff was that the place was going to be innovative and do the right things for people, to give opportunities for families who may have never gone to college before,” he said. “What you learn in a classroom is relevant to the growth and success of a community.”

Jacobs taught political science — which he referred to as political economy — and social science at MCC. He also taught economics, accompanied by more than 30 years of presentations of the Macomb County Economic Forecast.

Prior to becoming president, he served as director for the Center for Workforce Development and Policy at the college. As an associate director, he worked for the Community College Research Center, Teachers College and Columbia University — where he currently serves as a member of its board of directors.

As the past president of the National Council for Workforce Education, Jacobs has helped escalate progress in the form of activities that are important for both the college and the surrounding community. 

With a concentration on industry — especially the auto industry and advanced manufacturing — MCC has been able to upgrade programs while developing new standards to meet needs. Grants have aided increasing industry demands.

Along with maintaining and elevating the needs of the community comes the challenge of consistently responding to changes in academics and the industries themselves. As more individuals have set their sights on four-year degrees from the college, it has led to expanded relationships with community partners.

Jacobs mentioned how MCC is the first community college in the nation to establish a university center, while in the process developing programs with partners like Oakland University, Wayne State University and Walsh College.

He said that with the recession recovery still ongoing, there’s a need for more economic activity, and colleges help spur that activity — not only by aiding students academically, but also by setting up funds — like the J.P. Morgan Innovation Fund — to provide ongoing financial support to companies that offer employment opportunities to students.

It’s the process of building an area of community education and collaboration, he said, and making the county more attached to the entire metro Detroit region.

As to where the path heads in the summer of 2017, Jacobs isn’t quite sure on that front. He defines his chances of taking another full-time job as “very unlikely,” saying his role as MCC president is not the average 9-to-5 job. After paying great attention to time and detail, he expects to spend more time with his family.

Throughout the course of nearly 50 years, he has learned why the community college succeeds and why it needs to be preserved.

“What I’m proud of is not just to be able to put forward a vision, but the talented staff worked with that vision and extended and expanded it — and as a result we’ve done a lot of good work that’s recognized in the community, not only locally but nationally,” he said. “When a (U.S.) president visits twice, that’s a real honor. Very few colleges get a visit from the president, but very few get a visit twice.

“That’s validation for some of the work we’ve done. It makes me feel proud for our institution and it makes a huge difference in our community.”

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