March 24, 2020
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Michael Sweazey joined Kenyon as director of the Office of Campus Safety on July 1. He replaces Bob Hooper, who will retire Sept. 1 after leading Campus Safety since 2007.
Before coming to Kenyon, Sweazey was the director of the Office of International Safety and Security at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Prior to entering the world of higher education, he spent 26 years with the U.S. Secret Service.
We sat down with Sweazey to discuss his career experience and goals for his new position.
What are your goals as director of Campus Safety?
First of all, it’s gaining the trust of the officers and the faculty, staff and students, and just getting to know everybody. Bob [Hooper] is staying until the end of August, so it’s a good transition, with him introducing me to everything. The department has a good reputation, and Bob has done an incredible job with it in his career here, so I don’t see a need for any radical changes. What it comes down to is trying to make students’ experience on campus be one where they can focus on their academics and their lives without the worry of things happening to them. That’s the ultimate goal: to make it as safe as we can so that students’ sole thing to worry about is doing what they’re supposed to do in college.
How can students maintain a positive relationship with Campus Safety?
I know the department already has really good relations with students, and a lot of it is just communication. It’s openness, and letting [students] know that we are here to help them out. For me, I intend to go up and eat lunch at Peirce at least a couple times per week, and I want people to come up and talk to me if they have any questions or anything to talk about. I don’t like to sit in my office. I’m more of a hands-on person, so as much as I can, I intend to be out on campus.
You were in the U.S. Secret Service for 26 years and have quite the wall of memorabilia in your office. Do any moments stick out to you?
I had a lot of assignments through the years, but the two full-time protection details I was on, with former Presidents Carter and [George H.W.] Bush, were both just incredible experiences. You find yourself doing things that you would never do anywhere else.
I traveled with President Carter monitoring elections in Palestine and Venezuela, and [for his work] with the Carter Center, going out and fighting guinea worm and all these things. Once, we were going down a river in Siberia on a fishing trip, and we had a volcano erupt. How many times do you get to do that in your life? With President Bush, some of my favorite days were being a rescue swimmer up in Maine, because he had his boat that he went out on all the time.
My dad was an agent before me [during the Truman through Ford administrations], and so I’m more proud of the pictures of him. Compared to his stuff, mine seems tame.
How is your family adapting to Ohio so far?
We’re loving it. When we first got here, I was showing them around campus and brought them to Peirce Hall around lunchtime, and the cashier out in front of the servery was so welcoming to me and to [my 15-year-old son] Riker and [my wife] April. I turned to April and I said, “That is exactly what I experienced when I came up here to interview, and that’s why I was so excited to come here.” That was their first introduction to Kenyon and Gambier, and of course the food was great.
People have been so welcoming to all of us. We’re renting a house in Gambier until we find a place, and when we walk our dog, everybody says hi to Zoe, and then they introduce themselves to us.
Tell us more about Zoe.
Zoe’s a Newfoundland, so she’s 135 pounds of pure love, and she will be highly offended if people don’t come up and pet her — that’s what she lives for. She’s a big dog, but nobody should be intimidated, because she’s the absolute sweetest thing you’ll ever see.
The name Zoe comes from Zoe Washburne on “Firefly,” and my son’s name, Riker, comes from “Star Trek,” which between the two of those things cements my nerdism, I guess.
Any other hobbies besides science fiction TV series?
I'm a big amateur astronomer, so people are bound to see me at some point out with telescopes. And I love nature photography. I’m also a huge board gamer. One of the first things that we packed was my collection of 1,500+ board games. I’ll probably have game days in my house here that everyone’s welcome to — the more the merrier.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.