Muskegon native Darnell Earley, the current emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools and a former city manager in Flint and Saginaw, has been named the 2015 Muskegon Community College Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
Earley will be honored on Tuesday, May 5, at the Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner on campus and will address this year’s graduates on Wednesday, May 6, at the 2015 MCC Commencement in Walker Arena.
Established in 1998, the award is the highest honor that MCC bestows upon outstanding alumni whose professional achievements, community service, and advocacy of higher education exemplify the foremost ideals of their alma mater. The honorees are selected by the MCC Alumni Relations Committee.
After graduating in 1969 from Muskegon Heights High School, Earley left Michigan to seek his fortune in Los Angeles. Not finding it there, he returned to Muskegon in 1970.
“I was working at Howmet, and was eventually laid off,” said Earley. “It was then I decided I needed an education to keep a job.” Earley then took classes off and on until 1973 at MCC, eventually going full-time to achieve his associate’s degree in 1975.
“I realized I had to get an education to compete, and from MCC I got the discipline to study and learn, and be a part of that whole educational environment,” said Earley. “I’m proud of the Michigan community college system. It helped re-focus my life toward the value of education.”
Earley earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University. He began his professional career as the Director of Community Development for the Urban League of Muskegon. He soon moved on to become administrative assistant to the Muskegon County Administrator, as well as the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer.
His extensive career in public administration over the last 35-plus years included many high-profile professional positions, such as the deputy county controller for administrative services and budget in Ingham County and director of research and public policy staff for the Michigan House of Representatives.
On a global scale, he is the past president of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which has almost 9,000 members in 30 countries around the world.
An past adjunct faculty member at Grand Valley State University in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, Earley received the WMU College of Arts and Sciences – School of Public Affairs and Administration Alumni Achievement Award in 2011.