Series

Part 1 – Albion College Board of Trustees Lack Leadership and Direction

Written by John Face

City Watch NEWS

January 21, 2022

One thing has become painfully obvious to those in the college and Albion communities the last few months is that the Albion College Board of Trustees (BOT) has no real interest in making community relations a priority. When hundreds of staff, students and residents begged the BOT for change of the administration they had put in place, the BOT turned away and appeared to hold up a collective middle finger to these people and say, “we don’t care what you think”.

Leadership the Way it Was

“I miss Mauri”, If this writer had a nickel for every time I heard this. Mauri Ditzler was President of Albion College up until he retired in early 2020. Ditzler worked hard on building relationships in Albion. The City of Albion named the street that runs through the main campus after him, Ditzler Way. If you need to know anything about him and his work at the college and in Albion that alone should tell you where he stood in the community.

Ditzler built bridges between the college and city. He didn’t get everything right while he was here, his biggest supporters will tell you that, but he still worked hard to make the college and city a better place. He worked to increase overall student enrollment, which he did, and he worked very hard to diversify Albion Colleges overwhelmingly white student population.

A New Presidency

The BOT told everyone they were looking for someone dynamic for the new President. Mathew Johnson came into town like a whirlwind. Even though according to sources on the national search committee that they had concerns because of issues he had at his last employer, one of which it appeared he was demoted from a high-profile job at Brown.

At the start of Johnsons’ tenure this writer talked to many of the staff and heard good things. Many said his ideas were great, but after months nothing really was changing. Johnson had a history of being vindictive, mean, demeaning and people started to jump ship and take new positions outside the college if they weren’t fired. Johnson brought in his “cabinet” who would be his “headhunters” said one staffer, no one was safe, and everyone walked around on pins and needles trying not to get fired or have their job eliminated.

Word started coming out of the campus “that there are serious problems with the new President” said a staffer after just a few months in. Staff telling me they were talking to members of the BOT trying to get them to understand what was happening with little action. One BOT observer said that “the BOT is controlled by a very small group that the rest will do whatever they say”.

With that knowledge it makes sense little was done about Johnson even after students and staff started becoming public and vocal.

Part 2 – Albion College Board of Trustees Lack Direction – Now has New Leadership – Welcome Joey Miller

Written by John Face

February 14, 2022

As Albion College slowly recovers from the short tenure of Mat Johnson there are still issues. For those inside the College it is the biggest secret that everyone knows about, Albion College is in financial turmoil. Years of deficit spending using the Colleges endowments to cover shortfalls has placed the school in danger if the ship isn’t righted soon. What I am talking about is around $100 million in deficit spending using the endowment as a savings bank. From college Presidents to the Board of Trustees (BOT), it appears no one wants to stand up and acknowledge they have screwed up.

Today Mike Harrington is no longer President of the BOT. He, along with J. Donald Sheets, Thomas Ludington, Jeffrey Ott and Jeffrey Weedman have had a unique hold on the BOT. They have forced members of the BOT to follow their leadership and been happy with losing money, of course to question their business acumen is sacrilegious. On the college website they laud Harrington’s accomplishments but fail to remind everyone he was directly responsible for bringing Mat Johnson to Albion. City Watch has learned that Harrington is facing some health issues, let us hope this is not true and if so, we wish him well, but whatever the reason for his leaving, the college is much better off.

Now a new start for the Board as Joanne (Joey) Miller takes over as President of the Board, having to fix the mess left from her predecessor and other current members of the BOT. Ms. Miller is a 1975 graduate of Albion College and has served on the board previously. She has a reputation of being fair, honest and willing to work with and listening to others. If she is able to wrestle power away from BOT members who have spent many years on the BOT, some of whom should have reached their term limits she may be able to lead the school and bring much needed stability.

The main issues facing Albion College beyond the BOT members who have been here way to long is that the interim President Joe Calvaruso has yet to relieve the Mat Johnson appointees who continue to cause fear in staff. One staffer stating, “not much has changed, Joe just kind of floats along waiting for direction from the Board, and Mat’s people keep watch over the school for him (Johnson)”. Oh, and yes, they have to find a new President.

Now City Watch would love the opportunity to speak to Calvaruso about this and other issues. Maybe a leadership change on the board will rattle his cage, certainly my several emails and phone calls have not.

Email: citywatchnews1@gmail.com for leaving tips or questions

Part 3 – Albion College Board of Trustees – Former College Board of Trustee Member Speaks – Stephen Greenhalgh Shares his Feelings

Introduction written by John Face

February 19, 2022

Final story of a 3-part series regarding the Albion College Board of Trustees.

Mr. Greenhalgh reached out to me expressing his concerns for his beloved Alma Mater. As you will see his bond to Albion College is deep and personal. I could have used his letter and reported on it but there is no way I can show you, the reader, the love he has for his school as well as his own words will.

There will be criticism of his letter in City Watch, but this according to him is what he has written publicly. He has however, reached out privately to key players that are referenced in this letter over the last few days, so this is not a “hit job” or “surprise” on the Board of Trustees by him.

In my conversation with him I found that he cares deeply for Albion College and the city of Albion as they are an important part of his life. Hopefully someday I will be able to meet him in person, shake his hand and thank him for this heart felt letter to the Editor. It takes courage to do what he is doing by risking friendships decades old. He felt these words had to be said.

About the author:

A Pontiac native, Stephen Greenhalgh earned his bachelor’s degrees in 1974 at Albion College in anthropology and sociology then earned his law degree from Washington & Lee University in Virginia in 1977. He is now retired and living in Boulder, Colo. with his wife Susan Brochu Greenhalgh, a ’75 Albion Alum after a career with the Bodman Law Firm in Detroit (where he was a corporate attorney for the Detroit Lions among other clients). He served on the Albion College Board of Trustees for 11 years stepping down in 2019.

Letter to the Editor:

One of the shortcomings of a nonprofit organization like a college is that it has no owners with a financial stake in the enterprise who can hold the board to account (i.e., remove it) when it fails. Sadly, this is all too true with respect to Albion College; no for-profit company owners would have tolerated the board’s failures over the last decade-including the loss of over $100 million and now after the embarrassing Mathew Johnson debacle which has been covered extensively in many damaging articles in the national higher ed media. 

I may not have an ownership interest in the College, but I love the place and my family connections to it go all the way back to its founders in 1835. Samuel Dickie, president from 1901-1925, was a cousin on my father’s side and his wife, Mary Brockway, was the daughter of W. H. Brockway, a founder of the College in 1835. So, I have a stake. 

Samuel Dickie

I don’t know what you trustees are doing (or not doing) on the board. But I have to say that I have watched the value of my diploma decline since I quit the board in 2019. It hasn’t been pleasant.  Whose idea was it to stick the board’s middle finger up at the almost 2,000 signers of the Johnson recall petition? Did you really think this was a good thing that would calm the waters? 

It’s not my place to tell you what to do or not do. But I can say that if you had anything to do with the ridiculous “Resolution of Support” for Johnson adopted by the board in late October (2021), followed weeks later by his ignominious departure while chairman Harrington relentlessly cheered him on as he walked out the door, you should resign from the board and give someone else a chance to clean up the mess. 

The board has failed miserably since Don Sheets became chairman eight years ago. It is inept and entrenched as the ruling minority have all served as trustees longer than the term limits provided in the College’s bylaws, which they themselves voted to approve. Board meetings are scripted infomercials designed to silence hard questions. The leaders do not listen; they are an echo chamber, an advertisement for the importance of board term limits. 

The board is by far the largest problem facing the College; no improvement in the College can be expected until it is replaced. As the farmers say, “It’s time to grab a shovel and clean out the barn” at the board of trustees

You are all friends. But as trustees you are not above criticism, and friends speak frankly to friends, hence this letter. 

Respectfully

Stephen Greenhalgh

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