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New SMC businesswomen's endowment named for early faculty member

New SMC businesswomen's endowment named for early faculty member

Joyce Hopkins spent only a couple of years in Dowagiac teaching secretarial science on the business faculty of then-new Southwestern Michigan College, but the time here forged her daughter's first indelible memories. Pam Catlin, who, like SMC, was born in 1964, recalls gazing up N. Front Street from their house to A&W, now Taqueria Del Rey Mexican restaurant, where they walked for ice cream. They attended First United Methodist Church, now Beckwith Theatre.

"I feel very connected to our time there," Catlin said.

April 18 they visited from Mason, where Hopkins grew up on a dairy farm. Besides hunting up old haunts, the women checked in to Baymont, dined at Wood Fire and Mr. Wahoo's and explored Dowagiac Area History Gallery, the city sculpture collection and the Orphan Train mural.

The timing of their trip was significant. Unfortunately, Hopkins suffered a heart attack and died on Mother's Day, weeks before her 80th birthday June 21.

To honor her mother's connection to SMC, Catlin established the $2,500 Joyce A. Hopkins Women's Business Endowment to provide scholarships for female students with financial need enrolled in an AAS accounting or AAS/AA business major. The same criteria will be applied to a $400 scholarship available this fall.

"I wanted to direct this money to SMC because she had a good experience there and I feel connected because of this trip," Catlin said. "SMC's in a very agricultural area that needs quality education opportunities closer than Michigan State or Purdue. My mom's help didn't stop when they left class. I've heard story after story. She was the type of instructor who gave students rides or $20 - whatever they needed. I'm glad I can continue her legacy. She was so impressed with the residence halls and that SMC is still growing. It was nice she saw the only other place she ever lived. We had the best time. That short little overnight trip was perfect."

Catlin comes from a family of educators. All three siblings teach. One sister is earning her Ph.D. from Central Michigan University.

"My mom had warm feelings and wanted to stay and be part" of SMC's development, "but the pull of family won." She ended up teaching for Lansing Community College for decades while simultaneously working at the Capital Area Career Center, placing high school students in cooperative employment. Catlin said her mother had been offered an IBM job. Perhaps choosing family over trailblazing the corporate world made her appreciate her daughter's accomplishments.

"My mom was my biggest supporter," Catlin commented. "She always introduced me, 'This is my daughter. She's a pilot.' She witnessed the evolution from typing and shorthand to computers."

Catlin is among the 7 percent of pilots who are women, according to 2017 FAA Aeronautical Center data. She flies 160-passenger 737s for a major carrier. Her husband Mike flies jetliners, too, for another carrier.

SMC's foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships. Direct donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047. Contact Tom Atkinson at (269) 782-1276 or tatkinson@swmich.edu for more information.