Mott Community College: Celebrating 100 years of change and challenge

By Paul Rozycki

In 1923, Calvin Coolidge became president after Harding’s death, Hitler was arrested in Germany for an attempted coup, Hemingway returned from Paris, publishing his first short stories including “Up in Michigan”, the first issue of Time magazine was published, and Yankee Stadium hosted its first ballgame.

Mott Community College Campus in Flint (Photo by Tom Travis)

In Flint, Michigan the city had grown from 38,000 in 1910 to over 90,000 residents in 1920 and General Motors was growing to become the largest corporation in the world. In response to the rapid growth, Flint’s Central High School had just been built, and Flint Junior College was created, occupying a small part of the south wing of the new building on Crapo St.

Over the next century the college would go from a few rooms in Central High School, to an old sanitarium building, to a full campus on Court St. and beyond. It would begin with a class of just over 100 students and grow to over 13,000 students. It would face the prospect of closure at least twice, several financial crisis, strikes, the Flint water crisis, the COVID pandemic, cyberattacks, and many conflicts over the future vison of the college. It would also see its name change at least five times, and be led by eight deans, seven presidents, one provost, a faculty committee, and several interim leaders.

Directional sign near the Prahl Building on Mott Community College’s campus. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Central High School Years, 1923-1931

For its first decade Flint Junior College was meant to give Flint students the first two years of a University of Michigan-Ann Arbor degree. The courses and textbooks were the often the same as those in Ann Arbor and the application forms were the same. Nearly all students planned on transferring to the U of M in Ann Arbor. During this time the college saw the beginnings of athletic programs in football and basketball, a student newspaper, and fraternity-like clubhouses around the campus.

The Oak Grove Campus, 1931-1955

The rising enrollment in the Junior College led to the move to the “Oak Grove Sanitarium” located near Central High School. The building had been used as a hospital for those with mental and nervous disorders and later was a teachers’ dormitory in the 1920s. With the Great Depression of the 1930s there was an increased need for occupational programs at the college, which led to sharp conflict between those who wished to retain the traditional liberal arts program tied to Ann Arbor, and those who supported more occupational classes. The college was still part of the Flint Board of Education K-12 system, and financial stress brought about plans to close the college in 1938.

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Though the college had seen an increase in students in the early 1930s, the Great Depression and WWII caused enrollments to drop again. There were 519 students in 1939-40, but with the military draft there were only 149 in 1943-44. There were again plans to close the college in 1944 because of the declining enrollment and financial pressures. Military instruction and the Evening College sponsored by the Mott Foundation, kept the college alive during the war.

The end of the war and the GI Bill brought increased enrollment in the late 1940s, and with state funding in 1948, it meant that, for the first time, the college could pay for itself.

The Court Street Campus and the College and Cultural Center, 1955

By the early 1950s Flint and General Motors were at the peak of their growth and Flint leaders began the creation of the Cultural Center that would include a new campus for Flint Junior College. C.S. Mott donated the land for the current Court St. Campus and, by 1955, the first building, the Ballenger Field House, was in place. By the late 1950s most of the current Court Street Campus buildings has been constructed.

The William S. Ballenger Field House and The MCC Bear statue on the MCC campus in Flint. (Photo by Tom Travis)


During this time C.S. Mott persuaded the University of Michigan to open a branch campus in Flint, which they did in 1956 on the Court St. campus. Mott’s intention was to combine Flint Junior College with the U of M, yet the conflict between other wills and trusts kept them separate. There would be a 2+2 program where students would take the first two years of a degree at the Junior College and the last two at the University of Michigan-Flint. They would both remain on the same campus until the 1980s, when the U of M moved to its downtown campus.

Five name changes

Over its 100 year history the college it has seen at least five different name changes. It was initially known as Flint Junior College (1923-1957), then it was Flint Community Junior College (1957-1960), then, after separating from the Flint School Board, it was Genesee Community College (1970-1973). After the death of C.S. Mott it was renamed C.S. Mott Community College (1973-1975) and later shortened to Mott Community College (1975-present). Occasionally it has been given the full name of Charles Stewart Mott Community College or sometimes simply Mott College.

The Mott Community College campus (Photo by Tom Travis)

Seven presidents and one provost

Since the 1960s the college has been led by seven presidents and one provost. Prior to that time it had been led by a series of deans, as part of the Flint Board of Education.

Statue of Charles Stewart Mott near the MCC Library (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Charles Donnelly presidency: 1964-1970

Before moving into the administration Charles Donnelly was an English teacher and the college’s baseball coach. During his tenure as president he saw the U of M-Flint move to a four year program, stirring friction with the Junior College. The 1960s were a time of civil rights protest and Donnelly dealt with racial conflicts on campus as students vandalized the Flint Institute of Arts over racial issues. He also saw unions organize on campus for faculty and others, and was president when the college finally separated from the Flint Board of Education in 1969.

The Charles Pappas presidency: 1970-1979

Charles Pappas had been president of the Cleveland (Ohio) Metropolitan Campus of Cuyahoga Community College and was chosen in part because of his experience with a large urban college campus. During his tenure as president he oversaw a significant physical remodeling of the buildings on campus, a growth in occupational programs and a series of financial crisis that led to wide-spread pink-slipping in the late 1970s, leading to friction with the faculty, staff and the Board of Trustees.

William Walworth provost: 1980-1981

Conflict with the Board of Trustees led to Pappas’ dismissal and he was succeeded by William Walworth, who had been vice-president of business and employee relations. Walworth declined to be named president and said his role was to restore stability to the college and “be the Gerald Ford of MCC” after some years of turmoil.

The Robert Rue presidency: 1981-1984

Before being selected as Mott Community College president, Robert Rue had been president of Mohegan Community College in Norwich, Connecticut. Prior to that he was the youngest college president in the nation, when he served as president of Gordon College in Georgia at age 32. He began the process of bringing Mott into the computer age and the increased use of distance learning. During his time he was a strong advocate of affirmative action at the college. However financial problems continued and pink slips were issued on several occasions. Friction with the Board of Trustees caused him to leave in 1984.

The David Moore presidency: 1985-92

After a 20 year military career, David Moore initially came to the college to install a new computer system, was chosen as dean of management, and the selected at the college’s next president after Rue left. During his time he oversaw substantial campus rebuilding, the development of new branch campuses in Lapeer and Fenton, creation of the Mott Middle College, the University Center, and the Honors Program. As the U of M-Flint moved to its downtown campus Mott took over the Mott Memorial Building that housed many of the new programs. In 1986 the faculty union, the Mott Community College Education Association (MCCEA) led a contentious strike as negotiations over a new contract reached a stalemate. After increasing conflict with the Board, Moore left in 1992.

The Allen Arnold presidency: 1992-1999

Allen Arnold had been vice-president of Triton College in River Grove, Illinois before being selected as Mott’s next president.  He led a number of community outreach forums around the Genesee County to engage the community in the future plans for the college. During his tenure the Applewood Café’ opened on campus (later moving to downtown) and Arnold established strong ties with the UAW and supported the opening of a labor museum in Flint. A bond issue that Arnold worked to support set the stage for building the Regional Tech Center (RTC) on campus.

The Dick Shaink presidency: 1999-2014

After Arnold left David Spathelf, served as interim president for several months before Richard “Dick” Shaink was appointed president. Shaink had previously served as president of Central Community College, Platte Campus in Nebraska. During his presidency, the RTC opened, as did the Visual Design and Art Center on the Flint Campus. A Northern Tier Campus was opened in Clio, and the college began to manage Kearsley Park for Mott’s baseball teams. As the longest serving president of the college Shaink saw enrollment hit its highest numbers in 2010, with over 13,500 students. The Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) and widespread service learning began, and the Ballenger Chair Speaker series was reactivated. But cuts in state aid put increased financial pressure on the college towards the end of Shaink’s tenure.

The Beverly Walker-Griffea presidency: 2014-present

In the summer of 2014, the Board unanimously selected Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea as Mott’s next president. She was the first female and the first Black president of the college. She had previously served as Vice President for Student Services at Montgomery College in Maryland, and earlier held a similar position at Houston Community College in Texas.

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One of her major goals has been a series of diversity initiatives at the college as she formed a number of committees and work-groups to support those with differing backgrounds. A major part of that initiative was the creation of the Lenore Croudy Family Life Center, located in the former Woodside Church.  Many of the recent Ballenger Chair speakers addressed the goal of diversity and inclusion. The college has also seen the remodeling of the Durham Fitness Center, the Ballenger Fieldhouse, and the Prahl Student Center.

In the last decade Dr. Walker-Griffea faced three major crisis—the Flint water crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a serious cyberattack on the college’s computer system.

In response to the water crisis the college convened a “Water Summit” with the Concerned Pastors of Flint to report on the growing problem. Dr. Beverly also was appointed by Gov. Whitmer to serve on the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Like most colleges, during the COVID-19 pandemic there was a need to shift quickly to virtual classes, protect the health and safety of students and employees. The college provided needed medical equipment to area hospitals, made vaccines available, and provided technical support as students moved to virtual learning.

When the college was hit was a cyber-attack in January of 2021 they restored services in a little over a week and hired a security specialist to upgrade the computer system.

As Mott Community College approached its 2023 Centennial they planned a number of activities for the community to join in the celebration.

EVM political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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