Swanger honored for contributions

A sign is displayed outside of the Holiday Inn on Wednesday where a retirement party was held for Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — Local and state officials, educators and community members gathered this week to celebrate the career, leadership and friendship of Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger ahead of his retirement at the end of July.

“Thank you for your leadership over the last 13 years,” FMCC Board of Trustees Chairman Ryan Weitz said to Swanger Wednesday at the Holiday Inn. “When you look at your accomplishments on campus and in the communities, it’s really astounding.”

A retirement party was held Wednesday for Swanger who will conclude his career at FMCC on July 31 after 13 years as college president and 33 years in higher education. Swanger will move to Tampa, Florida later this year with his husband Evan Ladd where they recently purchased a home, planning to get involved in politics while pursuing other career interests.

During his time as FMCC’s longest serving president, Swanger took 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.

Those in attendance on Wednesday thanked Swanger for his dedication in all of these endeavors and for being a part of their of lives.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger, center, looks on as local and state officials, college leaders and community members celebrate his accomplishments and friendship during a retirement for Swanger at the Holiday Inn on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

FMCC Trustee William Easterly recalled working at the college when Swanger became president, saying, “I knew immediately he was going to be great and I knew he was going to be a great friend.”

“He is an awesome boss, the best you can have,” he added.

Easterly said he maintained a friendship with Swanger after leaving the college before taking a seat on the Board of Trustees where he welcomed the opportunity to work with Swanger once more.

“Dusty, you’ve been awesome,” Easterly said with gratitude. “We love you so much. Thank you.”

Another member of the Board of Trustees, Taiyebeh Ghazi-Moghadam, noted that although Swanger arrived in the area as a “stranger,” he is now leaving as a cherished “best friend.”

Fulton-Montgomery Community College Board of Trustees member Jennifer Gardella honors outgoing FMCC President Dustin Swanger as Chief Advancement Officer and Executive Director of the Foundation of FMCC Lesley Lanzi looks on during a retirement party for Swanger at the Holiday Inn on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“I want to wish you all the best as you begin this exciting new chapter. I know without a doubt that great things lie ahead for you and this makes saying good bye just a little bit easier,” Ghazi-Moghadam said. “Still, you will be missed more than you know and although you are leaving us, the impact you have made on our college and on this community is ever present and for that we will always be grateful.”

Other college officials thanked Swanger for being a role model through his leadership, including Trustee Jennifer Gardella.

“I want to thank you for modeling so beautifully the civility mission of the college for students, for us, for employees, for the community, for everyone you’ve come in contact with. You’re really a stand up guy and again we wish you the best,” Gardella said. “You’ll always have friends here.”

Foundation of FMCC Board of Directors Chair Del Salmon thanked Swanger for creating a vision that led the Foundation in raising $10 million to support the college over the course of seven years.

“You’ve role modeled what it means to be an exemplary president,” Salmon said. “Leadership with compassion, leadership with strength, leadership with a vision, leadership with understanding is what motivates us and that in a nutshell describes my friend Dusty Swanger. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for us, what you’ve done for this institution.”

Swanger’s impact while serving as head of FMCC reached beyond the college and the two counties all across the state, according to State University of New York Senior Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges and the Education Pipeline Johanna Duncan-Poitier.

“This is truly a bittersweet day,” Duncan Poitier said. “We know that Tampa is going to be a very, very lucky place to have you, but those of us in the State University of New York are very sad. We’re going to be losing you as one of our community college presidents and truly you are a champion for our community colleges. You will be greatly missed.”

Duncan-Poitier described Swanger as a leader among his colleagues known for fearlessly speaking up when he feels that something or someone is wrong.

“Without question you always have something insightful, smart and important that needs to be said, but others are afraid to say,” Duncan-Poitier said. “You’ve been a great mentor and leader and friend. Thank you Dusty.”

Following remarks from those in attendance, Swanger in turn shared his gratitude for being given the opportunity to lead FMCC and be a part of the surrounding community for 13 years.

“I just want to thank everybody at the college for really 13 years of working together. It’s been a pleasure to be your president, it has been my honor to work with you,” Swanger said.

“It’s been absolutely my pleasure to work in the community, to work with our two counties to see a vision for the future. This is a wonderful community in which to live, it’s a wonderful community in which to raise a family, it has a future,” he continued. “Thank you for your friendship, thank you for your support and it has been my honor to serve.”