Business Division’s top bologna takes final bow

Paul Knollman, dean of the Business Department, stands in the Founders Hall Atrium, enjoying the newly renovated space before he retires. Knollman has worked at MCCC for 25 years, and has been dean for 22 of those years (Photo by Elisabeth Brockman).

The number of connections Paul Knollman, dean of MCCC’s Business Division, has forged in his 25 years at MCCC is far-reaching.

The sentiment that Knollman inserts at the end of every email, and surely reflects the way he conducts his life, he picked up from Colin Powell:

“There is no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

May 7 marks the end of Knollman’s 22-year career as dean of the Business Division.

Knollman has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Bowling Green State University. He built his career as an educator starting at Davis College for five years followed by 10 years at Adrian College.

He said he always felt called to the role of teacher. Early in his career, he developed a fondness for working with both the traditional and “return to learn” college student.

Knollman started at MCCC working in the Corporate Community Services Department as a small-business planning counselor. He said he helped community members plot realistic plans for their business ventures.

He attributes his successes as dean to the “ego-free” leadership style that he established from his first day.

“We are a team,” Knollman said. “I am not a boss. I am a facilitator.”

David Reiman, professor of business, said Knollman admires MCCC’s education values.

“He sees himself as a resource. He sees himself more as a colleague than a boss, and his actions at work reflect that,” Reiman said.

Grace Yackee, vice president of Instruction said Knollman was an advocate for student success.

“He works hard to ensure faculty have what they need to be successful in the classroom,” Yackee said.

“You don’t lead because of you, you lead because of others,” Knollman said. “I love making it possible for others to do what they need to do.”

Wendy Wysocki, professor of business and economics, said Knollman’s teamwork atmosphere, open-door policy and receptivity to innovative ideas have fostered wonderful relationships with the people in his division.

“My greatest memories have centered around people,” Knollman said.

He said he arms his faculty with the belief they are the greatest division at MCCC during all their meetings. With this focus, he empowers his faculty in their crucial role of helping students fulfill their academic goals.

Patrick Nedry, professor of business, said a dean is like the bologna between two slices of bread. There are people contributing from both the top and bottom, but Paul made the collaboration look smooth and easy.

“He was always looking out for his faculty and the college,” Nedry said. “He managed to find a way to meld the interest of both of them and champion them for students.”

Knollman said he is a teacher by trade. Even though the position of dean did not place him in a traditional teaching environment, he was still able to help a great many students.

“The most memorable interactions were when I helped the student who did not think they could be helped,” Knollman said.

There was one instance where a nontraditional student came to Knollman quite distraught. She was unsure if scheduling difficulties would thwart her intention to graduate. By simply shifting some classes around, he was able to guarantee her graduation. During this interaction, the student said because of his help, she would be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

“Those are the things you don’t forget,” Knollman said.

During his time as dean, the Business Division, and MCCC in general, have undergone significant changes, many of which Knollman helped facilitate.

“He has been an advocate for change,” Reiman said “He is receptive and willing to listen to new ideas.”

Knollman was involved in the collaborative process with the transfer partnerships  between MCCC and other colleges, including Eastern Michigan University, UT, Northwood and Siena Heights.

“Paul is and was an excellent ambassador for articulation agreements,” Nedry said. “He was a master of the establishment and management of those kinds of relationships.”

Knollman said he has visions of the beautifully refurbished Founders Hall Building packed with students. He is sad to be leaving before experiencing that reality.

Even while leaving MCCC himself, Knollman’s educative expertise remains with the many faculty and deans he has mentored.

“He has served as a steady force, mentor, and historian among not only the academic deans, but colleagues in general,” Yackee said.

Knollman’s retirement opens a whole new section of his life.

“I don’t want to have done this job all this time and not ever get to retire,” Knollman said. “I want to live that kind of life for a while.”

“I will be assigned to the honey-do list for a while,” he said as he plans to travel and place the priority on his family.

“The true measure of success is balance: work, family, community,” Yackee said. “Paul effectively integrates all three of those areas.”

Knollman said after a fulfilling career and careful planning, the time was right for him to remove his tie for good and enjoy retirement.

Many of his colleagues feel the college has big shoes to fill in Knollman’s absence.

“He represents what MCCC is.,” Wysocki said. “It is a family of people working together to provide excellent educational opportunities for students and community members. As a valuable member of the team, he will be missed.”