Dustin Swanger honored for service

FMCC president retiring

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger was presented with the Fulton County Democratic Committee's inaugural Community Champion Award at FMCC's Allen House on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — Outgoing Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger was recognized by state and local officials for his dedication to the community throughout his 13 year tenure at the institution during a special meeting of the Fulton County Democratic Committee.

Fulton County Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Jacewicz, also a member of the FMCC Board of Trustees, presented Swanger with the committee’s inaugural Community Champion Award at FMCC’s Allen House on Thursday, asking Swanger to highlight his accomplishments ahead of his retirement on July 31, noting that he is the longest serving president in the college’s history.

“I’ve been here 13 years, that is the longest I’ve ever lived in any place in my entire life,” Swanger said.

Swanger explained that growing up, his father worked in retail and his family moved every two or three years throughout his youth, saying that as a result of his upbringing, starting over in a new environment doesn’t phase him.

“When I came here, I was going to be here five years and then I was going to move on to another college, but I really enjoyed this college and I enjoy this community,” Swanger said.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger, left, is presented with a citation on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the governor's Mohawk Valley representative Marc Barraco, middle, while Fulton County Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Jacewicz, right, looks on during Thursday's special committee meeting held at FMCC's Allen House to recognize the retiring college president. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

Swanger has led FMCC since 2006 while taking part in a number of organizations and initiatives throughout the surrounding counties including the Glove Theater Board of Directors, the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, co-chair of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and co-chair of the Amsterdam Downtown Revitalization Initiative Local Planning Committee.

“I think the community has such potential, I think this college has such potential, we’ve done a lot,” Swanger said. “Being involved and being part of that was very rewarding. Had I moved to a bigger community would I have been able to participate in the way that I was able to participate here? Probably not, so I stayed.”

At the college, Swanger said he was faced with his first obstacle before arriving on campus after accepting the position when he learned the school was placed on warning in danger of losing its Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation that allows schools to apply for federal funding due to a lack of accounting systems.

Working with college leaders, Swanger said FMCC was able to put the necessary oversight and accounting mechanisms in place to have the warning lifted within a year and a half and became a model for other colleges on how to address accreditation warnings.

The school also secured accreditations for the radiologic technology and nursing programs to provide students with widely accepted credentials upon completion during Swanger’s presidency and established a variety of new programs in fields in need of trained employees including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; nanotechnology; cybersecurity; and chemical abuse counseling.

To aid student success, the college instituted a number of student support services such as the Rev Up program that provides incoming freshman guidance on how to be successful in college in the week before starting their first semester through an extended orientation on campus and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program that recruits minorities and economically disadvantaged students for STEM programs and supports them throughout their academic careers.

Additionally, Swanger focused on ensuring the school is a safe place, with up to date and attractive facilities that students want to attend through a number of capital improvement projects including renovations to the physical education building and locker rooms, a three phase project overhauling the science labs with phase one completed last year and phase two due to commence this summer and upcoming renovations to the college theater.

After 13 years at FMCC during his 33-year career in higher education, Swanger said he plans to explore new opportunities after moving to his new home in Tampa, Florida this summer.

“I’m 58, I’ll be close to 59 when I actually retire, but that’s too young, so I’m going to find work, but I want to be able to find work where I can get involved in some other things too,” Swanger said.

“There are things I cannot do and say in the position I’m in now, so watch out,” he added, laughing.

Swanger said he plans to get involved in politics following his retirement, expressing his displeasure with the current federal government.

“I’m currently registered, and have been for a long time, registered unaffiliated and I do that to protect the institution. Now I want to be involved in the Democratic party,” Swanger said, receiving a round of applause from the committee members.

Following his remarks, Swanger was presented with a citation in recognition of his years of service on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo by Marc Barraco, the governor’s Mohawk Valley representative.

“I’ve only had the pleasure of working with Dusty for a little bit, I came on as governor’s representative in June of 2018, but every interaction, every time we’ve met has always been great and Dusty has helped us tremendously,” Barraco said. “On behalf of Gov. Cuomo, we just want to say congratulations and we look forward to hearing more from you in all of your other pursuits, thank you very much.”

“I think if you walk through this building you see a lot of Dusty’s accomplishments,” Barraco added. “The physical look of the college, the makeup of the college student body, it’s all really due to your leadership.”

After receiving recognition from the state, Swanger was presented with a citation by Jacewicz from the Fulton County Democratic Committee as recipient of the first Community Champion Award with a plaque in recognition of “his outstanding service as president at FMCC for the past 13 years and his unwavering commitment to our community.”

“On behalf of the Democratic committee for all of the service that you’ve done for the county and the college and the students, we’d like to present you with this,” Jacewicz said. “In his years of service, Dr. Swanger has not only brought tremendous improvements to our area’s community college, he has had a transformational impact on the Fulton-Montgomery region itself. We could think of no honoree more deserving of this recognition.”