On Tuesday, March 7th, 2023, friends, family, and former colleagues gathered at Schoolcraft College to celebrate the life of Dr. Conway A. Jeffress. There were more than 550 people in attendance, both in person and through live stream. There were many who spoke at the ceremony, including current President Dr. Glenn Cerny, former Schoolcraft President Dr. Richard McDowell, and Schoolcraft College trustees, faculty, staff and retirees.
Brandy Johnson, President of Michigan Community College Association, was there to present the College and the Family with letters from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, expressing sympathy and support for the loss of Dr. Conway Jeffress. It stated that “I am truly grateful for all the contributions Dr. Jeffress has made to our state as the president of Schoolcraft College. Dr. Jeffress has made a profound impact on the life of every student, faculty and staff member that had the pleasure of working with him. I have no doubt he will serve as an inspirational example to countless others.”
Dr. Jeffress joined Schoolcraft College in 1982 as the Vice President of Instruction and eventually succeed Dr. Richard McDowell, in 2001, to become Schoolcraft College’s fourth president. Throughout his many years of service, Dr. Jeffress was a vocal and committed advocate for the College and all whom it served. When Dr. Jeffress retired in 2020, he left a legacy that was emblematic of the College’s commitment to provide a transformational learning experience.
Dr. Jeffress’ presidential tenure saw the campus experience tremendous development. Physically, the footprint of campus was reimagined and expanded. His imprint on campus can be easily seen in the capital developments he directed. Most notably, buildings such as Vistatech (2003), Biomedical Technology Center (2008), Fitness Center (2012), Public Safety Training Complex (2013), and of course the now named Jeffress Center (2014) that were added during his presidency.
The College’s physical expansion was accompanied by remarkable growth in academic programs and student enrollment. Dr. Jeffress was committed to making Schoolcraft College a first-choice destination for students with updated academic offerings, even securing the College’s first Bachelor of Science degree program. His leadership expanded Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts program and Business Development Center expansion. Driven by Dr. Jeffress’ leadership, Schoolcraft College developed a reputation within the state and across the country as a leader in higher education
Dr. Glenn Cerny, current president and the VP/CFO under Dr. Jeffress, stated that “The biggest thing I remember about Conway is not about the projects, not about the buildings, not about the curriculum. It’s about all the stories about the family and that he always had time…and he would listen and he was a good listener.”
Dr. Jeffress was fully cognizant of the fact that his role was a public charge and he extended his energy and talents to myriad groups and causes well beyond the confines of Schoolcraft College. He was an active leader within the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA) and was Co-Chair of the President’s Taskforce on State Appropriations. Many local organizations, including, although not limited to the Livonia Rotary Club, SEMCOG Talent Taskforce, Midwestern Higher Education Compact and 21st Century Education Commission all benefitted from his work.
Carol Strom, shared with the Jeffress family “how grateful we are that you shared him with us…It was indeed a pleasure to work with Conway, both as Board Chair and then continuing as Trustee.”
While we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his legacy. When asked in an interview in December of 2022, what he thought his legacy was at the College, Dr. Jeffress paused for a moment and then said, “I helped the College become financially solvent, I gave a sense of direction, and I have helped the people here want to be here.”