Community Education at Eastern Michigan University
Author: Jack D. Minzey
Community education is an educational concept that became prominent in the early 1900's in several places throughout the United States, and indeed, throughout the world. It fostered programs which combined recreational activities with the public schools. Outstanding programs developed in Arthursdale, West Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Mississippi (The Tennessee Valley Authority); Georgia; Kentucky; Nambe, New Mexico; and the Philippine Islands. Professionals associated with this movement included John Dewey, Elsie Clapp, Calos Johnson, Maurice Seay, Dorothea Enderis, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
One of these professionals was a man named Wilbur Bowen. Professor Bowen was a faculty member at Michigan State Normal College, and he wove this concept and the classes which he taught and into his writings. In 1924, Bingo Brown, the dean of men and another legend at Michigan State Normal College, persuaded his brother in law, Frank Manley, to come to Ypsilanti to get his college education. Frank wanted to be a physical education teacher, and his choice of profession put him in constant contact with Professor Bowen and his philosophies. When Frank graduated in 1927, he was given a job in the Flint School System as a physical education teacher where he continued to promote the community education ideas which he had learned from Professor Bowen.
One of the people intrigued by Frank's ideas was Charles Stewart Mott. Mr. Mott was an influential industrialist and a politician. Fortuitously, he was also the largest stockholder in General Motors and was thus able to add financial assistance to Frank's ideas. He originally gave Frank $6,000 to develop community education in six elementary schools. This eventually led to placing a full time community educator in each of the Flint schools and the development of the premier community education laboratory in the world. The concept grew from one of recreation to changes in the school curriculum, maximum use of school facilities by the community, programs for adults, coordination of community agencies and the development of community councils. Soon, over 16,000 people a year were coming to visit the Flint Program.
Frank realized that there was a need for professional training of his community school directors, and he turned to his alma mater to provide this training. In 1950, Michigan State Normal College hired Dr. Fred Totten for the express purpose of providing graduate training for the directors in Flint. Flint was designated as a residential center, and in the ensuing years, every community school director in Flint possessed a graduate degree from MSNC.
However, as community education began to expand to other communities across the country, Flint began to lose its trained directors. Frank then conceived the idea of a leadership-training program which would involve seven Michigan Universities with Eastern Michigan University being one of these. The plan was to identify 50 people who demonstrated great leadership skills and bring them to Flint where they could spend a year earning advanced degrees and also becoming community education experts. The idea was that then, as these young people pursued successful careers in education, they would practice their professions based on the principles of community education. To make this program attractive, the stipend for the participants was equal to the salary of a school superintendent. This program, dubbed the Mott Intern Program, gained national renown and employers lined up to hire its graduates
Frank's next idea was to franchise community education through universities across the country. These community education centers were to develop programs regarding dissemination, implementation, and training related to community education, and they were to have seed monies for the purpose of financially motivating school districts, universities and state departments of education to get involved in community education. There were eight original centers of which Eastern was one. This number was later increased to sixteen and included institutions such as the University of Oregon, Arizona State, University of New Mexico, Texas A and M, University of Connecticut, University of Virginia, Florida Atlantic, and the University of Alabama. This number was then expanded into cooperative centers with each original center given the responsibility to develop satellite centers. Eastern's territory for development was southeastern Michigan, northern Ohio, Pennsylvania and western New York, and the cooperating centers which Eastern developed were Kent State, Syracuse, Indiana University (Pa.), Shippensburg, and the Departments of Education in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
One of the driving forces in perpetuating Eastern's role in community education was President Harold Sponberg. He used his influence to convince the Mott Foundation to take the community education center at Oakland University and give it to Eastern. He strongly believed in the community education philosophy and willingly gave his time to community education activities, including giving speeches at several community education conferences. He used university resources to manage Mott funds for their internship and other training programs. He also financially supported the National Community Education Association, especially during the year when the federal tax laws caused the Mott Foundation to withdraw their financial support. It is true that President Sponberg visualized a Mott-Manley College of Education building, but he was truly a community educator at heart.
Eastern's role in community education then became legend, including the following accomplishments.
- • Literally hundreds of school districts in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada were impacted by the Eastern center through in-service and training.
- • Almost every school district in southeastern Michigan received service from Eastern and most received financial assistance.
- • Eastern had the most sophisticated graduate training program in the country. In 1975, a survey by the Mott Foundation discovered that 75% of the Community School Directors in the U.S. had received their training from Eastern.
- • Eastern was instrumental in getting a basic community education class as part of the Michigan Administrator's Certification.
- • In 1972, Eastern housed the National Community Education Association, and Eastern became the first institution to take out an institutional membership.
- • John Porter, the former president of Eastern, has served on the Mott Foundation Board for the past ten years.
- • Eastern awarded an honorary doctoral degree to Harding Mott and to Bill White, the current president of the Mott Foundation.
- • Eastern has employed more community education trained personnel than any other institution in the United States. That list includes Jack Minzey, Clyde LeTarte, Bill Kromer, Pete Clancy, Jim Satterfield, Bill Hetrick, Jackie Tracy, Art McCafferty, George Kliminski, Tom Anderson, Donna Schmitt, Orv Kabat, and Duane Brown. All individuals in this group have been Mott Interns.
Some of the highlights of these Eastern education trained personnel, other than being on Eastern's staff, are:
- • Jack Minzey-Director of the Center for Community Education at Eastern, Board Member, President, and Treasurer of the National Community Education Association, board member of the Michigan Community School Association and one of original eight people involved in founding that organization, member of the Editorial Board of the Community Education Journal, recipient of two distinguished service awards from each of the national and state community education associations, author of over 100 published articles on community education, presenter of over 500 keynote speeches throughout the United States and six foreign countries, contributor to 11 community education books, and co-author of three community education text books, elected to the National Community Education Hall of Fame.
- • Clyde LeTarte-Associate Director for the Community Education Center at Eastern, one of the founders of the National Community Education Association, executive secretary of the National Community Education Association, recipient of the distinguished service award from the National Community Education Association and co-author of the three main texts in community education.
- • Donna Schmitt-Associate Director and Director of the Community Education Center at Eastern, authored numerous community education articles, editor of a book on community education, president of the Washtenaw County Community Education Association.
- • Jackie Tracy-Board of Directors of the Michigan Community Education Association, first woman President of the Michigan Community Education Association, Director of Community Education for the Chelsea Schools.
- • Bill Hetrick-Associate Director of the Center for Community Education at Eastern, distinguished service awards from the Florida and Mississippi community education associations, distinguished service award from the national association, Director of the Center for Community Education at the University of West Florida, Director of Community Education at Mississippi Southern University.
- • Bill Kromer-President of the Michigan Community Education Association, Director of the National Center for Community Education, Director of Community Education at the Hazel Park Community Schools.
- • Pete Clancy-Assistant Superintendent for Community Education in Flint and then became General Superintendent, Director of the Community Education Institute at Eastern.
- • George Kliminski-Center Director for Community Education at Kent State, Director of Community Education at the University of Wisconsin, acting executive secretary of the National Community Education Association, recipient of the distinguished service award from the national organization, elected to the National Community Education Hall of Fame.
- • Duane Brown-Director of the National Center for Community Education, recipient of the distinguished service award from the national organization, elected to the National Community Education Hall of Fame.
- • Jim Satterfield-developed a community education training program at the University of Kansas.
- • Orv Kabat-Director of Community Education for Rudyard, Michigan, President of the Michigan Community Education Association.
- • Art McCafferty — Director of Community Education at Grand Rapids, Michigan
- • Tom Anderson-developed a community education training program at Ferris State University
All of these people have gone on to other successes, which have included deanships, college vice-presidents, college presidents, college professors, and the Michigan House of Representatives.
Community education remained relatively strong at Eastern until about 1992. After that date, the programs and services began to decline. Materials were discarded, the center ceased to operate and the training program was greatly diluted. It did appear that the community education era at Eastern was reaching its end.
However, in the spring of 2005, a significant thing happened at Eastern that enhances the reputation of Eastern Michigan University related to Community Education and portends possibilities for the future. John Fallon was appointed President of Eastern Michigan University. John is a former Mott Intern and was actually in that program twice. He was later the community school director at Galesburg, Illinois and was a Community Education professional at Ball State University, which was one of the original sixteen community education centers. He was President of the National Community Education Association in 1979.
His wife, Sidney, was also a Mott Intern on two occasions and actually was in the Eastern Michigan University cohort group. She holds an Eastern Michigan University Master's Degree in Community Education. She also served as President of the National Community Education Association in 1980. In addition, she has a wealth of experience in community education. She was Program Associate for Community Education in the Flint Laboratory which was involved in the training of community educators. She also held positions as the Director of Training at the Midwest Community Education Development Center at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Director of Research and Training at the Community Education Center at Ball State, and Interim Executive Director of the National Community Education Association.
It is not likely that there is another institution in the United States that could match the record of the number of outstanding employees at Eastern Michigan University with a background in Community Education, and more particularly, have a history of training as Mott Interns.