The son of a migrant worker and a union tradesman, Michael Seymour knows what it takes to work hard and has an appreciation for those who work with their hands.
Seymour, the first in his family to attend college, will be taking over for Laura Urban as president of the Alexandria Technical and Community College. Urban will officially be done June 30 and Seymour will take the reigns on July 1.
Being raised by his grandparents, Seymour said there wasn’t a lot of extra money and that when it came time to apply for college, he borrowed the $20 for the application fee from his friend’s father.
He ended up being accepted, which he wasn’t sure would happen because of his poor grades in high school. After he thought his financial aid was a go and his schedule was all set, Seymour was ready to begin his college career. But there was a hiccup with his financial aid and on his first day, his schedule got pulled.
To this day, he is thankful for the caring faculty and staff who helped straighten it out, and believes he probably wouldn’t be where he is today without them.
“They took a chance on me and I will never forget that,” Seymour said, adding that being of an ethnic background, he always had a chip on his shoulder. At times he felt isolated and that he always had to try a little harder to prove himself.
At a welcome ceremony Thursday morning at the college, Seymour thanked everyone for making him feel so welcomed.
He told the large crowd he is proud of his new college so far and as a 30-year veteran of the Minnesota State College system, he is looking forward to working with the faculty and staff.
“I was told that I would be engaging in a great staff at a great college,” Seymour said.
He also thanked Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra for believing in him and hiring him as the new ATCC president.
Someone who could walk on water
Malhotra introduced Seymour at the welcome ceremony. After thanking Urban for her hard work, leadership and dedication to the college, he said the college is a much better place and is a great opportunity for the incoming president.
Last fall, when the journey began to find a new president, Malhorta asked the staff at the college what kind of leader was wanted and what traits the person should have. He talked about the hopes and aspirations of where the college should be now and into the future.
“You weren’t shy when you gave me guidance and advice,” the chancellor said. “You wanted someone with a high I.Q. and a high E.Q. You wanted someone who could walk on water.”
He quickly added, with a sly smile, “But only in the winter.”
Malhotra said the search advisory committee’s job was to find suitable candidates, and its members worked hard and did a phenomenal job. Once he received their feedback and input on the three finalists and made a decision who they wanted, it made his job a lot easier, he said, because their choice was closely aligned to what he was thinking and the colleges priorities.
“It was clear to me that Michael Seymour was the right person, the right leader,” Malhotra said. “He brings a tremendous amount of expertise. He’s talented and has honed his leadership skills. I can’t think of anyone else better prepared for this than Michael.”
According to Malhotra, Seymour understands colleges like ATCC and that it opens its doors to all walks of life and that it provides a transformative experience for its students. He said it was clear to him that Seymour is ready for presidency.
Right before he was done speaking, the chancellor said he was delivering him to very good hands but asked those in the audience who were from the college to give him time and space to learn and get settled in.
Until June 30, he said, “There is only one president, Laura Urban,” and then added that Seymour would be doing his homework between now and then. On July 1, Malhotra said there will be only one president and it will then be Seymour.
Thankful for opportunities
Jacob Smith, a second-year machine tool technician student from Bemidji, said he can relate to Seymour and that he was the best candidate for the job.
When he signed up to go to college, Smith said that was his plan, to “just go to college.” He had no intention of becoming involved, but one of his instructors had different plans. In his first year, Smith was asked by an instructor to attend a student senate meeting. Smith asked his instructor how many meetings he “had to” go to and was told two.
“Two years later and I am still involved,” he said.
It was that involvement that led Smith to being part of the process to find a new president.
Smith said someone did that for him when choosing Urban and that he felt it was important to do the same for students in the coming years.
“Without involvement in the senate, I probably wouldn’t have even known who the president was or what they did,” he said. “Now I see the importance of it. Students have to pay attention.”
Smith is thankful for all the opportunities he received while attending ATCC. He chose the school because of its reputation for having the best machine tool program in the state and that it ranks pretty high in the nation.
Seymour said he is not looking to change anything too much, but wants to build on the strong history of Alexandria Technical and Community College being the best in its class.
He wants to honor the work that Urban did with the college, as well as the work of the past presidents.
Being a good example for his children – Tori, 24, and Tyler, 20 – has always been a priority for Seymour and it has paid off as his daughter is attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his son is attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
He wife, Karla, is from Marshall and moving to Alexandria brings her a little closer to home. They love Alexandria so far and think it’s beautiful. And leaving Duluth, Seymour said he just traded a big lake for a bunch of smaller lakes.
“It feels like home,” he said.
There maybe one thing, though, he might think about changing. When asked if he was a Minnesota Vikings fan, Seymour said, to the dismay of those attending Thursday’s ceremony, he was more of a Green Bay Packers fan.
As everyone let out a collective sigh and a few boos, someone stated, “THAT wasn’t in your resume.”