ARCHBOLD, Ohio - Larry McDougle likes to tell stories, and the moral of his favorite one is that higher education needs more pigs.
Smiling broadly, he explained that there once was a chicken who wanted to go into business with a pig selling bacon and eggs. The pig, less enthusiastic, observed to his poultry pal, “For you, it's only a contribution. For me, it's total commitment.”
“There are a lot of people in an organization willing to make a contribution,” Dr. McDougle, president of Northwest State Community College, said. “But truly successful people make a total commitment.”
For 12 years, Dr. McDougle, 62, has committed himself to growth and economic development at the college along State Rt. 34. As he prepares to retire at the end of next month, his colleagues insist that commitment has been total.
Von Plessner, a business division professor who has taught there for 19 years, said Dr. McDougle has taken the college from “good to great.”
The proof, Mr. Plessner said, is all around him - in the buildings that have sprouted up around campus, the new equipment that has filled them, and the people who are flocking to the school in increasing numbers.
“Something has to be going right. It's not a mistake, the growth and the financial position of the college and the staff that he's accumulated,” he said.
Founded in 1968 as a technical school, it had 1,800 students when Dr. McDougle became president in 1991. Now, there are more than 3,500, and it has made the transition into a state community college.
The campus has undergone $10 million in capital improvements, and numerous off-campus sites have sprung up.
Since arriving, one of Dr. McDougle's top goals has been to reach out to the businesses and students of a region that had far fewer college graduates than the state average.
Part of the solution, he said, was to attract students through a new presidential scholars program that promised free tuition to students from high schools in certain counties who met academic requirements.
The other part was economic development. Dr. McDougle, a self-described people person who revels in wearing an array of bright sport coats, serves on a myriad of area boards and actively seeks to connect the college with area businesses, said Sue Westendorf, executive director of the Napoleon/Henry County Chamber of Commerce.
“He has truly reached out his arms to business and industry and encouraged them to come to the college, hold meetings, talk to them about what skills they need,” Ms. Westendorf said
Increasingly, that meant going to companies and offering classes to update workers' skills, like it has done for Automatic Feed Co., a maker of steel coil-processing equipment in Napoleon.
As chairman of Northwest State's board of trustees, Peter Beck, vice president at Automatic Feed, has seen the other side of Dr. McDougle. Despite a state budget crunch that has affected higher education funding, the president has put the college on solid footing by helping to raise more than $2 million for the college's foundation and by growing reserves.
“He's leaving the college financially in a very sound position to be able to weather the storm,” Mr. Beck said.
Dr. McDougle's background is in math and physics, subjects in which he received a bachelor's degree from the University of Findlay. He got a master's degree in physics from Kent State University and started at Eastman Kodak Co. in New York.
Later, he went back to school and received a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Toledo. He became associate dean for instruction at UT's Community and Technical College before arriving at Northwest State.
On Sept. 1, incoming president Betty Young will join Northwest State, giving her a month with Dr. McDougle to ease the transition.
As he prepares for retirement - a time sure to be full of his grandchildren, travels with his wife, and hopefully a little teaching - Dr. McDougle said he looks back without regrets.
“The college is ready to go to another level, the next step,” he said. “I can walk around feeling good about it.”
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