Ferris State University’s College of Business graduates might expect to be encouraged and challenged by veteran educator Michael Shibler, when the Rockford Public Schools superintendent receives an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service at a morning commencement ceremony Saturday, May 11.
Shibler, whose district has become Ferris’ largest concurrent enrollment partner, said as a formative member of the “Baby Boom” generation, he has remained steadfast in his desire to “make our world better.” That philosophical foundation remains intact, from his first duty as a teacher in the Detroit suburb of Warren, in 1968, to the conclusion of his third decade leading the progressive suburban Kent County district. Shibler has remained a tireless influencer for K-12 funding equity and other issues, championing the improvement of Michigan public school systems through continued legislative testimony and advocacy.
“I promised myself to fight to keep my idealism, to succeed in helping others to learn and achieve and not allow that ideal to be challenged by outside influences,” Shibler said. “I believe I have been able to keep that promise. It drives me to continue to work, as long as I am physically and mentally able.”
That ability has seen Shibler through 35 years as a public school superintendent, taking Rockford from a tenuous financial position when he arrived, in 1989, to its current attributes, as the 8,000-student district:
- Has progressed to a 98 percent graduation rate,
- Enjoys Blue Ribbon Exemplary School rankings for each building in the system, and
- Has earned various state, regional and national accolades for their music and athletic programs.
Shibler said another reason his district is recognized as a top educational choice is the Woodbridge Ferris Early College Program that was established in 2013. That allows Rockford students to earn academic credits for general education classes toward a degree at Ferris or another school, either through dual or concurrent enrollment.
“I had wanted this kind of partnership for our students, and it was fortuitous that President David Eisler wanted the same thing,” Shibler said. “This program took a year and a half to outline and develop, and President Eisler and I attended every meeting held over that time. I credit Dave for the commitment he has shown to reduce student debt, a primary consideration for our young people and their families. The Woodbridge Ferris Early College Program at Rockford has progressed since its inception and will continue to be successful.”
Students in the Rockford district have earned more than 3,300 college credits toward their post-secondary education, with an estimated value of more than $1.6 million.
Rockford High graduates can also benefit from a Ferris NEXT Scholarship, which was established in March 2017. Shibler said the opportunity for recipients can mean $1,000 for up to four years by advancing from a collaborative high school agreement, to enrollment and full-time study at a Ferris site.
“Thanks to our efforts with Ferris, hundreds of students have left Rockford having experienced the rigor of college with the support of a caring and collaborative partner,” Shibler said. “These initiatives can have life-changing implications for our students, and we are grateful to President Eisler and the university for providing this important option.”
Shibler, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in 1968; a master’s degree in Education from Michigan State University, in 1971, and his Ph.D., from MSU, in 1997, said it will be an honor to address College of Business graduates at their commencement, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 11.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for President Eisler, whom I believe initiated discussion to afford me this honor,” Shibler said. “Word of this development has brought on a few ’Doctor Doctor’ acknowledgments here at home. This has all come a bit out of left field, for me, but I am humbled and very thankful.”
Also receiving honorary doctorates at Ferris’ Spring 2019 commencement ceremonies are Teresa Weatherall Neal, Grand Rapids Public Schools’ superintendent and Ferris alumnus Tim Murphy, the former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Approximately 1,900 Ferris students will participate in the Spring 2019 commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 in Big Rapids.