Math/Science division misses Vinnie Maltese

Maltese presents at a college award ceremony.

Math/Science dean Vinnie Maltese retired after 17 years of touching the lives of hundreds of students.

“What I did as an instructor directly touched the lives of every student enrolled in each of my classes, but what I did as an administrator indirectly touched the lives of every student enrolled in each course in the division,” Maltese said.

Maltese began at MCCC as a professor. He taught 13 different math classes from Basic Mathematics Skills to Calculus.

“The best part of being in the faculty was the direct relationships with students and their learning,” Maltese said. “The impact I wanted to make at MCCC was to make the lives of each student I met better than if they had not had that encounter.”

Kathy Shepherd, professor of Science and Mathematics, said Maltese was a friend not only to her, but also to the students on campus.

“He was always passionate for students and always a student advocate,” Shepherd said.

She said Maltese wanted to see students succeed, and he stood up for them.

Josh Nocella was one student touched by Maltese. He knew Maltese as a professor and dean.

Nocella graduated from MCCC in 2005; then, with Maltese’s help, he returned as a math tutor nine years later. Nocella continues to tutor students in the math den today.

Nocella said tutoring makes him feel like he has accomplished something.

“I feel like it has given me a lot more confidence in my abilities,” Nocella said.

Because Maltese gave him the opportunity to tutor, Nocella said he is thinking about pursuing a teaching profession.

“I wish him only the best in the future,” Nocella said.

Roger Spalding, professor of Physics and Astronomy, said Maltese had a contagious laugh.

“It was common in our division to hear his laugh reflecting off the walls and down the halls and we would find ourselves gravitating to the source of the laugh. Upon our arrival, we would inevitably find one or two of our colleagues laughing, telling stories, and jokes,” Spalding said. “Most would agree that Vinnie always had the best stories.”

Shepherd said Maltese told stories of his world travels as an engineer.

Before teaching, Maltese worked as a licensed marine engineer for 20 years and concurrently served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve for seven years. He retired from a career as a marine engineer in 1998.

When Maltese applied at MCCC, Spalding was a member of the selection committee that interviewed Maltese for the mathematics position.

“I will never forget the interview,” Spalding said.

When Maltese said he was a “retired engineer,” Spalding heard “tired engineer,” which made everyone laugh.

“Of course, being a tired engineer was never part of Vinnie’s makeup. As a teaching faculty, Vinnie worked tirelessly becoming the best instructor he could be. We were lucky to have Vinnie’s knowledge, academic background, professional experience, and his teaching enthusiasm,” Spalding said.

After seven years of teaching, Maltese was offered the position as dean of the Mathematics and Science division.

“When he was selected dean, his enthusiasm for teaching and working with students was transferred into a new and broader enthusiasm of leading the division,” Spalding said.

“Vinnie was the most faculty/student orientated dean I have had the privilege of working with. I have been fortunate to have had qualified deans in my years at MCCC, but none was more committed to students, faculty, and the college than Vinnie.”

“He was often attending conferences, helping faculty, working on a new project for students, or advising an individual student on next semester’s registration,” Spalding said.

Maltese served as the dean of Science and Mathematics for 10 years and volunteered to be the interim dean of Humanities and Social Sciences for three years.

According to Maltese, it took more than 40 hours a week to meet the needs of one position, so juggling both positions was not optimal.

Maltese said he did not prefer teaching or administration. They were equally rewarding both personally and intellectually.

Every year Maltese listed goals he wanted to accomplish at the college. He said he accomplished most of them.

As a professor, he implemented the AMATYC Student Mathematics League Competition and mentored the only community college students to present at the Michigan Undergraduate Mathematics Conference.

When he was a dean, he improved the student science laboratory experience by hiring a dedicated science laboratory coordinator, improved the ability for students to be successful in developmental mathematics by studying and understanding why they were not, and created a math den where students can get drop in help with mathematics and meet to study and discuss mathematics.

Shepherd said Maltese did what was best for students although some of his decisions were not popular.

“He always did what he believed was in the best interest of students, his division, and the college,” Spalding said.

One of his most controversial accomplishments was the math redesign program.

Student Austin Eby started a math petition last semester and asked the board of trustees to add traditional math classes to the program.

Maltese’s retirement may have been a surprise to some. When students and faculty came back for classes this fall, Maltese was retired.

Nocella said there was a lot of ugliness involved with Maltese’s retirement in the wake of the math petition, but he did not know the details.

Both Maltese and Molly McCutchan, director of Human Resources, declined to address the matter.

Maltese said the goal he did not accomplish was achieving the NAEYC Accreditation for the Early Childhood Education Program.

“That is currently in progress and my only true regret about leaving the college so suddenly was not being there to help see that project through,” Maltese said.

One full-time professor is still working on the accreditation process for the program.

“I am sure that she will be successful, and I admire her for her dedication to her students and program,” Maltese said.

Some of Maltese’s fondest memories at the college were advising the MASS club, serving as Commencement Grand Marshal in 2014, and running a series of chalk talks on campus.

Chalk talks were mini-lectures by faculty on topics that they had expertise in but were not necessarily included in any of the courses.

“It gave the audience exposure to topics they may never have had experienced,” Maltese said. “The entire series was outstanding and well attended.”

Maltese submitted his letter of resignation from the college effective May 23, 2016 and he retired from the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) on June 1, 2016.

“Vinnie was generous with his time, his gifts, his leadership, and his presence,” Spalding said. “Vinnie is missed by me and our entire division.”

Although Maltese is a retired MCCC faculty member, he does not plan to stop working.

He is scheduled to teach part-time as a Mathematics professor at Jackson College.

He has earned the equivalent of 201 undergraduate and 117 graduate semester hours. In addition to the credits, Maltese has completed 24 technical and professional training courses.

He is completing his last course to receive an MBA at Baker College. He is also enrolled in a PhD program in Higher Education Leadership at Western Michigan University.

Maltese considers education a life-long hobby, and he continues to welcome new job opportunities.

“If an interesting opportunity arises, I will go for it,” Maltese said.