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					                      NIAGARA COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
                         INTERVIEW: Jerry Miller, Past President
                            INTERVIEWED BY: Kenneth Witt
                                  September 20, 2006



KW: This is Kenneth Witt, retired professor of mathematics at Genesee Community College
conducting an interview with Jerry Miller, who is a past president of Niagara County
Community College. We're doing this as part of an oral history program and we're conducting
this interview on September 20th at Mr. Miller's home in Gettsville, New York, north of Buffalo.
Jerry, I first want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

JM: I'm looking forward to this.

KW: First, I would like to ask you how you became involved in the community college
movement as it relates to Niagara County Community College.

JM: Well, it started out when I was a tenured junior high school teacher in Kenmore, New York.
I was a teacher of English and I also did theater with the junior high school. Niagara Falls
announced that they were going to have a community college and I kind of followed that not
really knowing much about it but hearing via the teachers' rumor mill that they were going to
take over the Shredded Wheat Building in Niagara Falls and it was going to start in the fall or the
spring.

KW: What year was that?

JM: This was back in 1963. So it did open but only with a few administrators. The president
was hired and then they hired some people to put together a faculty so a whole semester went by.
Then there was a rumor started that they were looking for part-time teachers and they were going
to open an evening division. That really excited me because I was teaching days (I had been
teaching about seven or eight years at that point) and I could use the extra money since we
weren’t paid a lot in those days; somewhere around six thousand was our salary. A friend of
mine who was an art teacher said, "Gee, they're looking for English teachers at Niagara County
Community College." So I contacted a fellow named Joe De Santis whose title was Director of
the Evening Division. Nothing had happened yet, so he set up an interview. I told him I was
teaching so I could come over after. He said, "Well, I'll meet you at six o'clock." So I drove to
Niagara Falls. Kenmore to Niagara Falls is maybe a little less than a half hour drive. So I drove
there and in the Shredded Wheat Building in the basement was Joe De Santis's office. I walked
in for the six o'clock interview and on his desk was a pile of books, six or seven books. He
shook my hand and welcomed me and said, "I understand you teach English. Here are the books
for English 101. You have two sections that you're going to be teaching." And that was the
extent of my interview! I was shocked! There was no search, no anything. "You're hired and
your class starts at 6:45." So I jumped in with both feet and I fell in love with teaching at that
level. My classes were phenomenal. Here was this luxury of having adults who could actually
converse and I just said, "Well, this is for me." So for the next three semesters, I taught part-
time. During my second and third semester I had come to meet some other people and there was
a man, it turned out, who was hired as kind of like the academic dean but that wasn’t his title.
He was from Lockport and I had student-taught for him in Lockport at the high school. Jim
Pletcher was his name. So, again, it was just like, "Wow! This is great. Here's somebody I
really feel comfortable with who knows my work." And I wanted to move and started to do
some drama with the theater. So during that time, I started to press my friend Jim about how to
get a full time job here. They had this very close-knit faculty, I think, of thirteen full-time
faculty members.

KW: Now you were at about 1965?

JM: This was in 1965, exactly. So I said, "How do I do this?" He said, "Well, I can put your
name in. Right now there are no positions but as soon as one opens we'll certainly consider
you." In the spring he said, "There's a position opening. But it's an instructor and this is what it
pays," which, again, was going to be way less than what I was making at that point. So I said,
"Well, I just can't do that." We had two children at that point. It was just too big a cut. I said I
would have to be hired at a higher level. So they worked on that. I got a call one day and they
said, "Dr. Notar, the President, would like to meet you." So I drove in and went to his office.
His office was in an old house over on Buffalo Avenue. He was sitting in a chair with his pipe in
his mouth and he's kind of just sitting there and looking at me. I sat down and we had our little
friendly greeting. He said, "What makes you think you can teach writing?" I was stunned by the
question. So I went through my little spiel that you really can teach writing, and with adults I
found it very easy to teach writing. We carried on a conversation and then he said, "Well, we're
going to recommend you to our board. This isn't a set thing yet because the board has to approve
it but we're going to agree to your request. You want to be an assistant professor I understand."
I said, "Well, I would like more but I have to have at least that to meet the salary." So I was one
of the first that ended up getting hired at a higher level. They had things pretty well structured so
that you had to be there as an instructor and then move up. I got hired in 1966, joining the
faculty as a full-timer.

KW: How many faculty members were there at that time? Do you recall?

JM: Well, there were originally 13 and we hired that year, I believe, about 14 or 15 additional
teachers. I think there were 28 or 29 faculty members after I was hired. And then each year for
the next few years we would hire, I would say, between 10 and 15. It grew very quickly from
that point.

KW: And all the time, were the classes largely being held in Niagara Falls?

JM: They were all held in Niagara Falls. We had no outreach at that point. Everything was in
Niagara Falls and we were housed in the Shredded Wheat Building, in the Parkway Motel and in
another motel over on Third Street. I remember the funniest thing. I taught in the Parkway
Motel; that's where my classes were. And if you remember how motels were structured, the
rooms were bedrooms with bathrooms on the side. So, you would be teaching and somebody
would get up to go to the bathroom and everything could be heard in that classroom. You would
be trying to lecture and the bathroom was being flushed and the sink was running. I thought,
"Oh, how is this ever going to end?"

KW: Well, the size of those rooms must have kept the class sizes rather small.



                                           Page 2 of 13
JM: Well, in English, we had class sizes of 22 and in a typical class you would have maybe 18
who would actually show up in those days. So, anyway, that was our existence for the next
couple of years. We were kind of like in growing pains and feeling our way. All of us were
new, most of us coming from the public-school systems. Out of the high schools. So, we kind
of just felt our way. Things like the faculty senate were brand new to us. None of us had
experienced that in high school. After my second year, the lady who was in charge of theater
retired. She was elderly. So then I was appointed to teach speech and theater as well as English.
From that point on, starting in 1969, I established myself in theater in a rather dramatic way. I
became very vocal. It was the era of student protests and all of that. I developed a company that
did original work that was kind of war protest-movement things, that was called physical theater
and for the next five years, they traveled all over the country. It became Equity. We performed
in New York City. Newspapers, the Village Voice came to Niagara Falls to interview our
company. It really became very well known. It was called Now Theater.

KW: Now, did you shift your course involvement, your actual teaching shifting away from
English and writing over to more drama and production?

JM: Yes. I ended up very quickly, after one year of teaching, only two English classes and the
others were theater. Suddenly I was doing all theater and speech. They were very pleased with
that.

KW: Where did you put your productions on?

JM: We had a theater on Third Street. It was the old State Theater, a really beautiful old, old
house.

KW: Not there any longer I would assume.

JM: No, it's gone. And then the other place was the Kenan Center in Lockport, which had a
tailored theater, which was a very small house. And that worked because we did a lot of work on
the beams and had actors and things all over the theater. Then we had an Equity contract at
Studio Theatre Arena for a year. We performed at the LaMama Theatre in New York. Traveled
all over the state and did shows all over the place.

KW: Marvelous!

JM: We averaged probably about two hundred performances a year. And they were very well
known. Eventually the whole company left. Of course, they were only two-year students. None
of them had ever been on the stage, which was also great. Then the Ford Foundation got
involved and funded me to go to Africa and study rituals and things like that that I would
incorporate. So suddenly I was very, very busy and I became a name and the college, in its
growing time, could use that as well. So lots of people became aware of Niagara County
Community College.

KW: Your student population, was it predominantly full-time by that time?



                                          Page 3 of 13
JM: It started out mostly full time. Then the evening division grew I would say at the same kind
of speed. By 1969 we had well over a thousand night students and we certainly had that many
day students. So we were into that two thousand plus by 1970. We were in a growth period for
the next 10 years and we ended up around four thousand to forty-four hundred FTE.

KW: In the context of the degree programs did you have an associate degree program in drama?

JM: When I started, no. When I left theater, yes. So over that time period we worked on
developing a theater program and by the time we had our new campus, we had the theater
program and we had this beautiful facility. At the old campus, no. We didn’t have the facilities
and we didn’t have the…well, we had enough students. We could have made the program go but
we had no other faculty besides me. So everyone else that I used, I had to get volunteers. I
found a speech teacher who helped me out that did technical theater but wasn't qualified to do
technical theater. I had a speech teacher friend who did makeup for me so we could teach
makeup but there was no qualification there. She just did it.

KW: It kind of begs the question because you talked about the new campus. You were in a
position to actually provide an awful lot of input in terms of the needs for the theater complex.

JM: I had the great pleasure of working right from scratch on the fine arts building. And my part
of it was the whole theater complex.

KW: And that was all part of the original plan for the Sanborn Campus then?

JM: Yes. It was there from the beginning but when I started there was no plan yet for Sanborn
Campus. There was nothing but politics. So for the first three or four years it was Dr. Notar, the
county legislators and the board of trustees in constant turmoil as to where we were going to be
allowed to put a campus. There was a lot of struggle between the Niagara Falls legislators who
wanted it in Niagara Falls. There were lots of people down in the county government who,
because it was centrally located down in Lockport, they wanted it in Lockport. Then there was
the North Tonawanda group who wanted it more central in the county. And this continued until
finally they agreed to put it in the middle of nowhere. It was in the exact midpoint---10 miles
from Niagara Falls, 10 miles from Lockport, 10 miles from North Tonawanda---stuck out in the
middle of absolutely nowhere. But that got approved. And we were willing to sacrifice what
many of us thought would be the dynamism of Niagara Falls. We had a wonderful dynamic
going on there. People could feel the energy. You walked out of the buildings into the city.
You had the falls, you had the tourists; it was all an amalgam of energy. We moved out to
Sanborn. When we first moved out I remember driving out there to see the construction as it was
taking place. It was surrounded by cows.

KW: You were still teaching at that time.

JM: Oh, yes. Still teaching. I had my full five classes and then I would always teach one or two
overloads at that time. And part of our professional commitment was to work on the plans for
the new campus.



                                            Page 4 of 13
KW: And curriculum?

JM: And curriculum. And buildings. We were trying to build. I was still working on courses. I
was devising courses. Then I was moving in the latter part of that to, "OK, now we need a
curriculum and how are we going to get a full curriculum and what does that mean and how are
we going to get accredited and what does that mean in terms of staffing?" There was a lot of that
going on. But the thrust of real commitment was that we were going to move. We were going to
get into a new campus. And Dr. Notar was a genius. He was our first president, the founding
president. He was a genius as a builder. He knew everything. He knew where every piece of
mortar on that campus was. I remember him taking tours and walking through the campus and
checking the mortar and checking the dust on the window. It was just incredible what he knew
about construction. So my role…by that point I had been not only promoted to associate
professor but I had been given the title of director of theater. And that allowed me the credential
to push more and I was able to get the seven-hundred-seat theater designed and done. And then
we also had a small theater. My interest was in experimental stuff. So I wanted a small theater
that would seat one hundred to one hundred ten or less.

KW: Did you get both?

JM: I got both. And I got a lift stage.

KW: What year are we talking about?

JM: 1969. Actually 1970 when it finally started to be built. We got in late 1970 or '71. And the
lift stage was unbelievable. Anyway, none of that was supposed to be allowed according to the
architect. And they kept coming back and the president would call me in and say, "We can't do
this. We can't do that. Community colleges are not allowed to have an auditorium." We
couldn’t call it a theater so we had an auditorium. And so we built a large lecture hall, and the
auditorium had the power lift, which we called an orchestra pit or something…so we had all
these little go-rounds. All these little rules. But we got it. And it's still there. An absolutely
beautiful facility.

KW: It is. How much autonomy did the college board have with regard to the details that you're
talking about, with the actual construction phases? The board of supervisors was notorious for
their hands-on involvement. How much…?

JM: Actually we were very fortunate. We had two trustees that were incredibly involved. One
was a lawyer named Ernie Curto and he was a state legislator as well. He had been through the
mill and had done the moves. So he knew who to go to and when, and he knew how to deal with
meddling from different quarters. So he was very involved. The other one was Al Certo who
was a local entrepreneur and a beer distributor. He was quite well respected in the community.
These two gentlemen backed up Dr. Notar every inch of the way. They were very vocal if the
supervisors started to intrude on the academic mission or what we felt was absolutely essential
for the academic mission.




                                           Page 5 of 13
KW: They would intercede?

JM: They would absolutely come right out and say, "You're in territory that you have no right to
be in. If you want to talk about the costs, we'll talk about costs. But whether we have to have it,
that's for the college to tell you." And in those days SUNY was very, very supportive and
backed Ernie Notar all the way. They wanted the growth. They wanted the college in Niagara
County. So once they got by the politics of where it was going to be, then everybody kind of did
get together and worked together to get it done. It became probably the jewel of the county in
many ways.

KW: I would say so. Having been on campus several times and in the auditorium. It is
something. Then what happened? You made the move; you got on campus. Actually had a real
office.

JM: That's right, I actually had an office. We had no real offices in the beginning at the old
campus…but eventually we did. Dr. Notar had rented some houses on Buffalo Avenue. We
called ours Moose Hall. It was this huge house and my office was on the second floor in some
old bedroom with two other English teachers. But, of course, when we moved to the new
campus we had beautiful offices. They were the appropriate space and they were located in the
right areas. You didn’t have to go from one building to another three blocks away for your class,
which we were doing when we were in the city.

KW: The move took place, you said, in…?

JM: 1971. I'm pretty sure it was '71. We may have started in November-December of '70
because we started classes in '71. But I remember we had to move the library, for example. So
everybody, faculty, students, everybody formed a line and this was incredible. We moved books
for blocks. It was a joy; that was a joyous time. And we had been through the very volatile
1969-70 era. The students had gotten it out of their system. They took over the campus one day.
One morning we all heard the announcement that the doors were locked. They had taken over
the switchboard and the computer. All this kind of nonsense. So students had been through that
and now had joined in. They had had their conversations. They understood that the
administration respected them as students and wanted their input. All of that had gone on. So
they felt ownership as well. And by the time we moved to the new campus, it wasn’t any longer
the supervisors' building and the trustees' building, the administrator's building. It was The
Campus. Everybody felt a part ownership of that.

KW: In that particular year, '71, about the time you made the move, was there a major growth in
the faculty?

JM: There was a big jump, yes. How many, I couldn’t tell you the exact number but I would say
probably something like thirty or so faculty members were hired that year. And we had
branched out considerably in part time. The part-time division had grown into what had started
to be called community education. It was expected that a lot of people would come out to the
campus and take one or two courses. So we kept calling it one college because we didn’t want




                                           Page 6 of 13
the separation that we originally had. But until probably being out there ten years, it still
maintained a slight separation even though we didn’t want it to.

KW: And that was common throughout the community college system…

JM: I think so.

KW: Did the full-time faculty also go to the off-campus areas?

JM: Oh, yeah! Our full-time faculty right from the start, almost all of them taught at least one
extra course. So they would teach a night class or an off-campus course. Off-campus didn’t
come when we first moved out there though. When we first moved to Sanborn, everything went
to Sanborn. And for the first four or five years, the rule was, "Hey we built this big campus.
You've got to come out here." And it wasn’t until probably '79 or '80 that we started to outreach.
But that's when we found out that there was a council and an agreement with the supervisors and
the trustees that a presence would always be maintained in Niagara Falls.

KW: Oh.

JM: We didn’t know that. So we hadn’t been pushing for that…

KW: Smart move, actually.

JM: Exactly. And so when we found that out then that became a cry to build the satellite centers
at Niagara Falls and still to this day it seems a better college for that purpose. We have to
maintain a presence.

KW: How much longer did you stay in the classroom? We were up to about '71…

JM: Let's see, we opened in '71. I wanted to do the first shows in the theater. I left the theater
program in 1973 and went into administration. I became the director of student activities. Now,
that's a strange jump.

KW: Yes.

JM: The reason for that was my theater troupes had reached a stage where they were becoming
competitive with the college. We were performing all over the place and we were getting
significant grant money from the New York State Council on the Arts and National Endowment
and they were off. They were no longer students of NCCC, they were past students and they
stayed together as a group. Now I'm trying to take new students and get them to do drama and
there was a struggle. If I had a big success with the Now Theater, the dean would say, "Well,
how come you didn’t do that show here?" And then if I did the show there, then the NOW
company wanted to know, "Well, why aren’t you with us?" So there was this constant tug on me
and I just said, "I can't keep this up." And the dean, who had supported me throughout all of this,
including allowing me to go to Africa and do all these other things, finally said, "Jerry, you've
gotta make a choice." Ellen Stewart of LaMama Theatre wanted me to come to New York and



                                           Page 7 of 13
work in New York. Finally I just said, "Well, how can I still do the theater and maintain a role
with the college?" Well, student activities just walked right in. So now I'm not director of
theater anymore so there's no competition. I have a very flexible schedule as the director of
student activities. I could do programming and that's fine. And I continued to do the NOW
theater. Then in 1979 Dr. Donato came, and Don talked with me about becoming a dean of
students.

KW: Oh! That's a normal progression.

JM: Yes, student activities is a normal progression so I went into that. But he had an idea that
everything had to be connected to the academic side of the house. I had academic credentials so
he said --- I didn’t have student affairs credentials --- "I want you to become the associate dean
of developmental learning and dean of students. So suddenly remedial reading, writing and math
became part of this dean of students job, only I was called the associate dean, and that allowed
me to be on the academic council. I had to report to the academic dean…

KW: By this time we're in the '80s, right?

JM: We're in 1980.

KW: 1980. You're now with developmental studies.

JM: Right. I jumped over the era of Jack Watson. Jack Watson was the president before Don
Donato and they were not good years. They were three very bad years. Ugly years. Lots of
turmoil. A lot of bad things happened to faculty morale and there were out-and-out cries for
removing him and finally they did. So that wasn’t a good time. When Don Donato came it was
a breath of fresh air. He came with all sorts of wonderful new ideas. The stagnation of that
three-year period was over. So when he talked with me, I thought that was one of the most
exciting ideas. I'm going to have a role in academics and be the dean of students. I jumped at it.
So for a while that's what my role was. Then halfway through Don's tenure, around 1985, the
dean of academics left and I applied to be the dean of academic affairs. I actually became vice
president of academic affairs. Don had shifted the titles. So I got that and then was Don's vice
president until he left in 1989. Then there was a search for president and I applied for that and
became the next president.

KW: And assumed those duties in '89?

JM: I assumed those in '89 and retired in 1999, ten years later. So it's an incredibly unusual
track. It's very unusual to have your whole professional career at the same college. Everybody
that I ever knew always said to me, "You became president of the same college?" And, of
course, with that, I brought all that history. While Don was fantastic for about eight years, in his
last two years things blew up. Faculty again. He and the faculty didn’t see eye to eye. And so I
was able to bring nice stability and I came from the faculty so the faculty all calmed down and
we had a very good ten years from that point on. We had peace for the next ten years. For the
'90s.




                                             Page 8 of 13
KW: It gave you some pleasure, then, to be able to close out your tenure there.

JM: I had a wonderful, wonderful time.

KW: Were you there when the additional outreach programs began?

JM: Yes. The outreach all began during the '80s during Don Donato's presidency.

KW: And you were vice president?

JM: And I was vice president at the time. The real thrust for initial outreach was all done for
industry and business. Don's whole commitment was, "We need to bring businesses closer to the
college." Up to that point there had been no connections at all. In fact, he spent a year, his first
year I think, where we had breakfasts scheduled and he and I along with the director of PR
would meet with two or three business leaders. We would do this at least once, if not twice, a
week. Don would make breakfast for them. He would physically make the breakfast himself.
And this was to get to know all of these businesses. And in every case he would say, "Now you
know what we can do for you." And then they would have a conversation. And the person
would say, "Oh, I didn’t know that…" Then, "Yes, we can provide these kinds of courses for
your employees," or, "We can provide labor-management skills for you." He and the president
of the union were working together now and were doing this kind of outreach. And this was
incredible. People suddenly responded to that. So for the first eight years of Don's tenure, this
just bloomed and we developed an outreach that was called corporate training, which was huge.
We had OSHA training. We did courses in Harrison Radiator, which was a big company at that
time before Delphi. We did all sorts of work up in the chemical companies in Niagara Falls. We
built an outreach center in Niagara Falls. Went to the Summit Park Mall. It was Don's idea that
we were going to open a satellite in the mall itself. All of that was successful, that kind of
outreach. It became a struggle in the latter part of his tenure with the schools because with all
this thrust people stopped paying attention to what was going on with the schools.

KW: You're talking about high schools?

JM: I'm talking high schools. So, whereas in the first ten years of the college's existence, all of
our attention was paid to the schools because that's where we got our students, it wasn’t until
Don started the outreach to business that people then started to say, "Well, maybe you have other
roles." My effort and involvement in outreach was toward the end of Don's era towards social
services, towards the unfortunate and we started to build what was called one-stop service
centers. And we built a center in Niagara Falls, which was during my time. We built outreaches
where the social services department of the county worked with us to make sure that unwed
mothers or single parents or whatever would have the funds and the access and we would work
with them so they could get grants for education and not lose their welfare benefits or whatever
benefits they were under. And in the latter part of my time, then the thrust began to work with
high schools and do college courses in the high schools for college credit. It was a very
politically sensitive area. The unions were involved, the union of the high schools versus the
union of the college. Who's going to teach it and who's going to take the credit for it and all of
that kind of stuff. It just started when I retired and I know that since that time, of course, it's



                                           Page 9 of 13
been mushrooming all over the place; everybody's doing it now. There are good marriages, and
it's a nice follow-up to the early admissions to the four-year schools worked out during the '90s.

KW: You had, as I recall, three major population centers that you had to deal with. You had
Niagara Falls, you had Lockport, and you had North Tonawanda. Is that correct?

JM: That's correct.

KW: So when you did your outreach, you basically had to look at all three of those centers. And,
of course, you had industry in all three of those. Were you dealing with high schools in all three
of those areas also?

JM: Oh, yes. High schools in each of them as well as others. There were a lot of rural…

KW: The smaller ones.

JM: The smaller ones like Newfane, Barker and so forth. When you become a president you
inherit the previous president's goals. It's automatic. Don had done such a great job in going
after business and industry but along the way he lost the people of the county so my role, then, as
president was automatic. I came in and the very first thing I did was what we called “In Your
Neighborhood”. This was to start out to say, "I want to get to everybody. I want the people of
Niagara County to look at the college as something that they own. This is their’s, the jewel of
the county." So what we did for the next three years, every single month we did a program with
a different community. You select a town and you go to them and you form a committee of the
people and you say to them, "What can we do for you?" and we build a program around that.
We went out of our way to identify the people in that community who were graduates of Niagara
County Community College, successful people who had gone to the community college and so
forth. Well, this was a huge success. Everybody was thrilled because we were over to The
Carousel (a factory in North Tonawanda) or we were down on the lake in Olcott where nobody
had been in ten years because there was no industry there. We were at the Apple Growers and
the county fair and all that kind of thing. And everybody suddenly came back and it was a
wonderful time. Because now we had the outreach with business and industry pretty solid and
we had the general population. And they would speak up and these were tough times financially
for the county. And so it was our population that spoke for us and came to our rescue. Every
time we would have a fight with the county legislature over a budget, the people would speak up
and did, which really helped us a lot.

KW: I have to ask and this may be a yes-no kind of question, did you get involved with the
Native American population at all?

JM: Oh, yes! Big time! We had a Native American Council. Before I became president there
was a working group with the social science division and the chairman of our social science
department was Native American. So we had a good relationship. Chief Patterson from the
Tuscaroras was always involved. In fact, he spoke at my inauguration. From that point on, we
had this council and we were allowed to go onto the reservation. We provided things in their
school and…



                                          Page 10 of 13
KW: They were unique because they were one of the few tribes in New York that had their own
school.

JM: That's right. And the new campus is surrounded by Tuscarora land. So we're right in the
heart of them. So, oh yeah, a very good relationship with them.

KW: Did you find that to be an experience in and of itself?

JM: Oh yeah!

KW: In dealing with the tribal councils…?

JM: Well, that's what made it really…I was always taken back because I didn’t read it right.
Luckily I had people around me who did that were, like I said, the chairman of social sciences
would advise me and then, again, Chief Patterson was very patient with me. Because it's very
easy to offend.

KW: Yes.

JM: But we had such good relationships that that didn’t happen.

KW: That's marvelous. One thing that I know must have gotten developed and started during
that time frame when you were either a vice president or president would be the college
foundation.

JM: Yes. The college foundation began under Don Donato and again it was an outgrowth of
meeting with all of these businesses and industries. It is another wonderful advantage of
outreach because by that point we were ready to also introduce them to the idea that as an
industry they would give money to the college. Not just their taxes. Of course that's the first
thing every one of them would say, "Well, I pay my taxes."

KW: But the major thrust of the foundation was…

JM: …was scholarship and equipment that we couldn’t get and professional development. We
had three branches that we wanted to fund. But the one that was always successful was
scholarships. Most people didn’t buy into funding professional development but then that
became our mantra with the faculty itself. We'd say, "Well, your share when you contribute
could go that way." And equipment became more of a grant-funded effort. So we would get
money from…for big equipment for the health programs we would write grants to try to get it.
So Don started it. He formed the original board for the foundation. And we had our first drive,
which was completed after he left but started under him, for the first two million. I think they're
up to close to five million now so they're doing all right.

KW: That's amazing. It has been largely successful.




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JM: Yes, it has.

KW: And that really is a separate entity, the foundation.

JM: It's totally separate. It has its own board but there is a relationship in that one board of
trustees member is also on the foundation board. So there is at least a communication so that
they never feel ignored…and that was kind of important because when we were on the old
campus there was a donation from the Shredded Wheat Company of a major warehouse-type
building and that ended up being sold and the money was put into a fund and it was called
Niagara Education Fund Foundation. They had a community committee and it was meant to
support NCCC. Well, for some reason, some miscommunications and some negative thoughts
crept in and the two boards began clashing and the next thing you know, the community board of
the Niagara Education Fund said, "Well, we're not going to give you money. We'll give it to
other people now." And they started to give grants. The board of trustees, because they couldn’t
control this was angry. So, when we created the foundation, the Niagara County Community
College Foundation, we wanted to make very sure that that kind of thing never happened again.
Now, since then, that has been resolved. The Niagara Education Fund has given significant
money to the foundation. So the old Niagara Falls has returned to the fold.

KW: We're almost at the end here. I think you've done a marvelous job. Have I skipped
anything or is there anything that you thought of that you would want to have included that I
have not asked regarding your long college experience at Niagara?

JM: One thing that you started out with, you asked me how I got involved with the college.
After all these years, thirty-some years, you look back and you say, "You know, the community
college movement is such a wonderful, unbelievable contribution to education." And, to me,
that's what I wish that the community colleges were somehow able to promote more. There is
phenomenal opportunity here. I have watched while students who were second-rate athletes
become first-rate athletes. Kids who had never been on a stage become Equity actors. Just
commitment that was beyond anything that I experienced when I went to college. I went to the
state university all the way from bachelor's degree through master's degree and I never felt the
commitment that I see community college students feel. And you start so far behind in so many
ways and somehow magic occurs. They may be behind in remedial reading, writing or math.
They may be second rate when it comes to learning skills and discipline but somehow magic
happens. Somehow we're graduating thousands from community colleges. So somewhere they
gained it during that time. So when people want to give up on people I just want to punch
something because the answer to me is the community college and we should be promoting that
over and over. I wish SUNY would suddenly just say, "We're not going to have freshmen and
sophomores anymore at four-year schools. We're going to have community colleges and then
we're going to have juniors, seniors and first year maybe after that." That, to me, is what is
magical.

KW: I think we knew what our mission was and we lived it.

JM: We did. That's right.




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KW: Jerry, I want to thank you very much.

JM: My pleasure.




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