SMC Flags at Half Staff for Passing of President Emeritus David Briegel


Flags are flying at half-mast today at Southwestern Michigan College campuses in mourning of the passing of President Emeritus David C. Briegel.

President Briegel, who guided SMC as its fifth president from 1981-to-1998, died today, Wednesday, January 13th.

Briegel arrived at SMC on February 19, 1967 as business manager — just five months after the college opened for students in September of 1966.

He was later promoted to Vice President for Business, a post he held until his appointment as President of the institution in 1981 upon the retirement of President Dr. Russell “M” Owen. Briegel served as President until he retired on July 1, 1998. He continued, however, to serve the college as a part-time special projects employee until retiring completely in the summer of 2013.

The Board of Trustees on December 13, 2013, voted unanimously to name the College Services Building after President Briegel — the only president of the college so honored.

Across 14 years in his business role, 17 years as president and 15 years of part-time service, he devoted 46 years to SMC.

Dr. David Mathews, SMC’s seventh president from 2001-2019 says, “David Briegel was a tremendous leader and advocate of Southwestern Michigan College,” and adds, “He worked tirelessly to guide and to represent SMC in Lansing and in the community. Even after retirement, he continued to serve as a resource with his wealth of knowledge and commitment to SMC. He will be greatly missed.”

As a part-time administrator, President Briegel oversaw construction of the third residence hall, the new college bookstore in the former museum building, the one-stop Student Service Center, new entryways at Cherry Grove and Dailey roads, the Alumni Plaza, as well as fundraising and lobbying.

Born in Holland, David Briegel’s family moved to Grand Rapids when he was 2 years old. He graduated from Ottawa High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1959.

He added a master’s degree in 1963, worked with Oldsmobile Corp. and taught school in Grand Rapids before coming to Dowagiac.

In 1962, he married Camille Solvie, who retired after teaching music for 25 years in the Dowagiac school system. Their daughter, Carrie, became a school counselor. Their son Steven, an SMC honors graduate, died of cancer in 1990, and Steve’s Run continues in his memory.

Ron Gunn, who spoke to President Briegel almost daily by phone, says, “He was my best friend.”

After flying to Rochester, Minnesota to be with the Briegels as Steven neared the end of his life, Gunn collaborated with the family to turn the renowned Road and Trail Race into a tribute to their son, who had worked for the Athletic Department.

President Briegel arrived at SMC three months before Gunn who says, “we really hit it off. We both liked sports and had a rivalry between me liking Notre Dame and him rooting for MSU. He appreciated what I was doing for the college and we worked closely. As an administrator, he was firm, but fair. He was just a wonderful human being, a class act all the way. He was not only the classiest person I ever knew, with a wonderful heart, he taught me a lot about character.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon credits President Briegel with him attending college in the first place, saying, “He’s the sole reason I came to SMC.” Jerdon adds, “He was always recruiting students ‘to get a credential’ even years after retiring. That’s what made him great — he truly wanted to know about you. He asked young people about their career plans and what they saw themselves doing in five years. He was always investigating and making suggestions about how to realize their dreams. He would greet you with a tremendous smile and a ‘How you doin’, partner?’ In a nutshell, he was always positive, even in hardship.”

Trustee Dr. Elaine Foster, who served as Dean of Nursing over a 25 year career at SMC, called it “A sad day,” adding, “Dave Briegel was a wonderful man. He was not only a smart businessman, but a great person. Mr. Briegel was president when I started at SMC. I had only been out of college a few years, but he gave me a chance and hired me into a fulltime position after I taught adjunct one year. He always had a way of making a person feel special and will be sadly missed.”

Trustee Becky Moore says, “He was a true and faithful supporter of SMC.”

Dr. Mary Young-Marcks, Political Science Professor, recalls, “Mr. Briegel was president when I came to SMC 37 years ago,” and adds, “When he retired, he said to us, ‘You can call me Dave now.’ But I never could. He was Mr. Briegel. It was once said there were a handful of people who would always ‘bleed green and gold,’ and he was top of the list. He contributed in every way to the success of SMC.”

The professor went on to say, “His big smile and handshake greeted you whenever he saw you. He continued to be part of the SMC community in retirement by his presence and contributions to many areas. He will be very missed, and I know he must have been thrilled at the idea of cross country coming back.”

Those interested in sharing quotes, memories or quips from President Briegel’s tenure are invited to email them to so they can be compiled and shared with his family.

Source: Moody on the Market
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