WMU president Dunn prepares for final commencement

Western Michigan University president John Dunn
An undated courtesy photo of Western Michigan University President John Dunn, who will be retiring. (WMU)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University will graduate more than 1,200 students on Saturday. It will be the last commencement ceremony for the university’s president, Dr. John Dunn who is retiring next month.

When the final graduate walks across the stage tomorrow, Dunn will have awarded more than 50,000 degrees and shaken as many hands during his 10 years as Western Michigan’s leader.

“The handshakes are very, very interesting,” said Dunn. “It’s not the big guy who comes through, the real burly guy.  It’s usually a very nice young woman and sometimes they’ll grab you more in the fingers than in the palm.  And they squeeze, and it almost brings you to your knees.”

But Dunn says he’s enjoyed every handshake, every congratulation. Because it’s all about the students.

“What a great privilege and honor it is to have the opportunity to acknowledge that many students, not only them but their families, their loved ones, what a special day,” Dunn said.

Dunn has spent a better part of four decades in higher education. He says the last 10 years as WMU’s president have been the best of his life.

“Not only the university itself, but our community, our region, Kalamazoo, Portage. It doesn’t get much better than this,” he said.

Dunn officially steps down as president July 31.

He will be sticking around southwest Michigan for at least another year. WMU trustees asked him to do some work for the school, including helping out the new president, Dr. Edward Montgomery. Dunn will also help the university recruit international students and offer his support in fundraising.

“There’s some gifts that we would like to close, there is some work to be done there,” Dunn said. “I think I can help do that.”

Dunn says graduation is the best day of the academic year.

“This is a day of closure. But it’s also a day of new beginning, because they’re going to go on and they’re going to do really great things.”