Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Grady Scholars with Dennis and Ron Grady, George's sons, and President Odenwald

Grady Scholars with George's sons, Dennis and Ron, and President Odenwald

Grady Scholars with their project for The Timbers in Dowagiac

Grady Scholars with care projects for The Timbers in Dowagiac

AEP logo

AEP Foundation Grant to Fund SMC's Grady Scholars’ Third Year

Published on July 28, 2023 - 3 p.m.

Southwestern Michigan College announced today that the American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power, has renewed its grant in the amount of $12,000 to fund the third year of scholarships 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 ongoing support of the AEP Foundation and Indiana Michigan Power to establish and to continue Grady Scholars,” said Dr. Joe Odenwald, President of Southwestern Michigan College. “We will again be able to serve up to 20 students in the program during the 2023-2024 academic year.”

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. 

For the second cohort of 12 students in 2022-2023, the average GPA for the Grady Scholars was 3.26, vs. 2.85 for the overall student body. Retention of those in the program from the Fall 2022 term to Spring 2023 was 91.7 percent, versus 83.2 percent for all SMC degree-seeking students.

During the year, the Grady Scholars participated in four leadership workshops, built professional resumes, completed a community service project to make care packages for The Timbers (an assisted-living facility in Dowagiac), and completed volunteer hours for the SMC Career Fair and the March Open House.

“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 Heritage Southwest 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,” Odenwald said.

“We are honored to help get the two cohorts of Grady Scholars started on their college education,” said Mona Livingston, External Affairs Manager for Indiana Michigan Power. “We believe that this initiative aligns well with the mission of the AEP Foundation, and it’s evident from the success of the program that it is worthy of further community support.”

Bridget Gray of Lowell, who was recommended for the program by Professor Ria Thomas, Math and Science Department Chair, said that “The Grady Scholars has helped show me that I can be a leader.”

Grady Scholar Cencia “Sissy” Worley of Buchanan had attended college at another institution for one semester after high school, didn’t like it and did not return. Now re-enrolled at SMC in elementary education, she says, “The Grady program has been a good opportunity. It was kind of nice to get that invitation, to feel like the hard work I was putting in as an older student. It was very helpful to have that $1,000 spread across two semesters…that was a bit less stress to worry about.” Worley plans to complete the program at SMC and then continue at Ferris State University towards her bachelor’s in elementary education.

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

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.



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.