Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Classie Newbern

Classie Newbern

Alexander Medina

Alexander Medina

AEP Foundation $7,500 Grant to Fund SMC's Grady Scholars

Published on December 20, 2021 - 2 p.m.

Southwestern Michigan College announced today a $7,500 gift from the AEP Foundation, on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power, will fund the first year of scholarships and expenses for the Grady Scholars leadership-development program.

The scholarships are named for George Grady (1933-1977), a Dowagiac resident, Navy diver and Korean War veteran who served as Michigan’s first African American police chief for nine years from 1965 through 1974.

“We truly appreciate the support of the AEP Foundation and Indiana Michigan Power to establish Grady Scholars,” said Dr. Joe Odenwald, President of Southwestern Michigan College. “This type of effort is sorely needed in our community to improve college attainment and help all families train for better careers.”

Founded in November 2020, the competitive Grady Scholars program gives first priority to in-district graduating high school seniors who are historically underrepresented in college. Goals for the program include developing students’ leadership abilities, helping those students become RAs and orientation leaders and building upon SMC’s other student leadership initiatives. With a greater diversity experience in student leadership, prospective students coming to the campus will better identify with students serving in those areas, and current students will be more likely to complete their education, leading to more opportunities and higher lifetime earnings. 

“We’re pleased to help the first class of Grady Scholars get started on their college education,” said Mona Livingston, Community Affairs manager for Indiana Michigan Power. “This initiative aligns really well with the mission of the AEP Foundation and it was evident from talking with Dr. Odenwald that he cares deeply about the Southwest Michigan area and SMC’s role in helping to build for the future.”

The first class of six Grady Scholars started at SMC in September.

President Dr. Joe Odenwald said, “There are people within the college district who still think SMC is out of their reach. We know that’s true because we still have about 46 percent of high school students graduating in the Lewis Cass ISD who aren’t attending college anywhere. The idea is to associate this new program with someone from our area who was a trailblazer, and by all accounts, George Grady was.”

Classie Newbern, Biology/Medical Pre-Professional major, said that "Being in the Grady Scholarship Program didn’t just help me out financially, it has helped me gain more leadership skills and showed me what being a leader is all about."

Business major Alexander Medina added "The one-on-one mentoring I received through the Grady Scholarship Program was really helpful for me. During our academic sessions, I learned many leadership skills, including the values, attributes, and responsibilities of being a successful leader. I know this program provided me with a good baseline to set my goals for the semester of getting good grades, making new friends, and participating in student activities on campus, and I accomplished the majority of those goals this semester."

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter community college founded in 1964. The college delivers above-average graduation/transfer rates compared to other community colleges nationally and student college-level course success that is consistently in the top 25 percent of two-year colleges nationally. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Those interested in learning more about Southwestern Michigan College or applying for the next class of Grady Scholars in Fall 2022 should visit




ABOUT THE AEP FOUNDATION: The American Electric Power Foundation is funded by American Electric Power (Nasdaq: AEP) and its utility operating units, including Indiana Michigan Power. The Foundation provides a permanent, ongoing resource for charitable initiatives involving higher dollar values and multi-year commitments in the communities served by AEP and initiatives outside of AEP’s 11-state service area. The Foundation’s areas of focus include special emphasis on improving lives through education from early childhood through higher education, protecting the environment, providing basic human services in the areas of hunger, housing, health and safety, and enriching life through art, music and cultural heritage. The Foundation is based in Columbus, Ohio.

ABOUT INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER: Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) is headquartered in Fort Wayne, and its approximately 2,100 employees serve more than 599,000 customers. More than two-thirds of its energy delivered in 2019 was emission-free.  I&M has at its availability various sources of generation including 2,278 MW of nuclear generation in Michigan, 450 MW of purchased wind generation from Indiana, more than 22 MW of hydro generation in both states and approximately 15 MW of large-scale solar generation in both states. The company’s generation portfolio also includes 2,620 MW of coal-fueled generation in Indiana.