Investor Spotlight with Dr. Dale Nesbary

Posted in News on June 20, 2022

 Investor Spotlight with Dr. Dale Nesbary

Dale K. Nesbary, Ph.D.  served as President of Muskegon Community College since 2009, retiring at the end of June.  Since then, MCC has been named best community college in Michigan, in 2017 by and in 2021 by The College raised record amounts of grants, gifts, and community funding in support of $55 million infrastructure investment, the largest since opening its main campus in 1967.  These include our $14.1 million Health and Wellness Center, built from the ground up as a working emergency hospital and housing a community facing health clinic, both of which were placed in service during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The College also boasts many accomplished academic programs including perennially nationally ranked nursing programs, and two performance groups (West Michigan Concert Winds and the MCC Collegiate Singers) having recently performed in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of New York's famed Carnegie Hall. 

Prior to MCC, Dr. Nesbary served as Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs at Adrian College and as Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Public Administration Program at Oakland University. He also served as Research Director and Technical Services Director with the Boston Police Department, as well as leadership positions with City of Boston central administration. Previously, he held research positions with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, Colorado, and the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. 

He has published three books and over 30 academic papers primarily in finance, technology, and policing. He completed his Ph.D. in Law, Policy and Society at Northeastern University, a Master of Public Administration degree from Western Michigan University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University. 
He serves on numerous boards, including as Immediate Past Chair of the Michigan Community College Association Board, Chair of the Trinity Health System Michigan Regional Board, Lakeshore Advantage, and Talent 2025. Previous service includes the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) Board, the American Council on Education Fellows Executive Board, the American Association of Community Colleges Workforce Commission and is a silver life member of the NAACP. 

In 2021, he was the first recipient of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County’s Impact Award in recognition of his exceptional work to advance education, foster a dynamic local economy, and promote prosperity for all in Muskegon County. He also received the 2021 Muskegon BEAT Living Legend Award, presented by the Muskegon-based radio station 103.7 The Beat. for the impact of his actions and body of work in the community. 

He resides in Muskegon, Michigan with his beautiful wife of 42 years, Connie. He is the proud father of two adult children, Nicole and Matthew. His interests include baking bread, making jams, and trombone playing. 


You have years of senior-level leadership experience. Who are the people who have had a profound influence on you and your leadership style?

  • Dr. Donald Weatherspoon. The first African American leader of a state budget office (the now Maryland Office of Legislative Services) in U.S. history, national education leader and member of the legendary 1965 Michigan State University national championship football squad. A mentor of mine since 1977.
  • Dr. Sandra Packard, Retired president of Oakland University, the visionary behind the explosive growth of OU in the early to mid 1990s and the president hiring me to my first faculty position.  She was the first woman to hold this position
  • Ellen Jeffries, MBA. Retired longtime MI Senate Fiscal Agency Director and decades long analyst and administrator.  She showed the way when it was very difficult for women to have the opportunity to lead in male dominated environments. Ellen and I began our careers at the SFA in the late 1970s.
  • Robyn Arrington, MD.  The late Dr, Arrington was a long time OBGYN and member of the Adrian College board of trustees.  He was a major donor there and was proof of concept that AC was worthy of multimillion dollar gifts.  He and his brother (Dr. Harold Arrington) gifted over $4 million to AC. Dr. Arrington and I met when I was VP for Academic Affairs and Dean at Adrian College in the mid 2000s.

This list varies in age, gender, and background but each 1) desire(d) to change the world and 2) are/were empathetic, and 3) have/had a great sense of humor.

Talk to us about organizational culture. What are some values that you and your team live by?

AT MCC our values are:

  • Learning
  • Integrity
  • Excellence
  • Collaboration
  • Kindness

We strove to meet these values through a servant culture.    We focused outwardly on clients, in the case of my business At MCC, this means students and the businesses and organizations that we serve.  Once we understand their needs, we can more effectively define our vision, mission, and values.  While modified occasionally, These values have remained in place for years.


As you end your professional season at Muskegon Community College, what is your hope for the future of higher education in our region?

That leaders become more active in helping our communities understand how education can help West Michigan become a leader in innovation nationally and internationally.  Only when we are in the top quartile of regions nationally with respect to education attainment will we reach this goal.


What advice would you give an emerging leader who is also passionate about a career in higher education?

  • Be persistent.  West Michigan is on its way but needs emerging leaders to do more than moving the needle.
  • Be courageous. Share your perspective and knowledge when needed, not when it is wanted.
  • Celebrate successes.  Leaders are looked to to identify and measure success. We need to help others (and ourselves) to pause for reflection and celebration as well.

What is a book that you’ve read or a resource that you use to help you continually grow as a leader?

The Leadership Challenge by Drs, James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  This is a multi-decade long research project, or as they describe it “a field guide for becoming the kind of leader that other people want to follow.”  I used books from this series for the nearly two decades that I taught public administration theory, primarily at the graduate level. Leaders from business, education, government, and other fields are surveyed and interviewed annually, providing a rich source of data from which Kouzes and Posner craft their research product.


Can you share why it is a priority for you to invest in economic development? 

EDOs have the pulse of their region and must not be reticent in sharing their informed perspective with community members and prospective investors.  Lakeshore Advantage, under the leadership of Jennifer Owens is the primary exemplar of this in West Michigan.