I’m Jeff Dwyer. On April 4, 2016, I became director of Michigan State University Extension after serving as interim director since January 1.
I was born in Saline, Michigan, and lived there through elementary school. Summers growing up were spent partly at Walloon Lake near Petoskey and on my uncle’s farm in Sanilac County. My early years taught me to be adaptable and curious and to work hard. My family history goes back to the Marquette region of the Upper Peninsula and the Thumb region (Brown City). My grandmother was born in the Marquette County Jail during a period when my great-grandfather was the sheriff of Marquette County!
I attended high school in Los Angeles, California, and after graduating, I attended California Lutheran University, where I received my bachelor’s degree in sociology. I continued my studies at the University of Florida, where I received my doctorate in sociology.
Some of you may know me from my role as senior associate dean for Innovation and Community Partnerships (formerly Research and Community Engagement) and professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the College of Human Medicine. While I was senior associate dean, I worked with a talented staff of colleagues to facilitate multisite collaboration, establishing university-community linkages, developing and monitoring research opportunities for students, recruiting scientists, and establishing the infrastructure needed to sustain a statewide research network in the 21st century.
From 1993 to 1999, I was director of the Institute of Gerontology and professor of sociology at Wayne State University. Before joining Michigan State University, I was the founding director of the Institute on Aging and a professor of medicine at the University of Florida. Through my academic and professional career, I have established a substantial background in research on health and health services utilization, rural aging and family dynamics.
I have been a fan of Extension for a long time. I watched people like Jim Isleib, Vicki Ballas, Liana Graves and Rob Wiener do great work and influence lives in my home county of Alger. I have had the privilege of working closely with the Extension Health Research HNI Work Team over the past couple of years. I have observed the influence of Extension on everything from nutrition plans for lead-exposed children to benefiting an entire state industry through the production of hops. I have a great appreciation for Extension, and it is an honor for me to join the team.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about my family. My wife, Nancy, and I met while we were both on the faculty at MSU and have been married for 14 years. Since 2003, Nancy and I have lived outside Munising with Cocoa, our chocolate lab. We started a business in that same year called the Falling Rock Café & Bookstore. I am sometimes referred to as “Project Boy” and stay busy between our business and home fixing things, rehabbing, etc. I also like to read, fish and stay tuned in to sports of all kinds. I have two children. Amanda lives in California and works at an accounting firm. Rebecca is a junior at California State University at Northridge studying animation and marketing. She is currently studying abroad at the University of Brighton in the U.K., where Nancy and I spent our holidays this year. Nancy and I spend a lot of time visiting Amanda and Rebecca in California. We love to travel.
I’m honored that Dean Poston invited me to join the Extension administration team and that interim Dean of CANR Doug Buhler, MSU Provost June Youatt and MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, in consultation with incoming CANR Dean Ronald Hendrick, decided to make my position permanent. I will spend a lot of time making sure that people across Michigan and on the MSU campus know about the amazing things that you do. I will look for ways to support you by removing barriers, finding resources and creating partnerships that will reinforce your current work. I also hope to create new opportunities. I look forward to meeting you, learning about your programs and visiting with you all over Michigan.