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Retired Fire Chief Provides More Than an Example to Future Firefighters

Gerald AlwardGerald Alward began his career with the Washington Township Fire Department as a volunteer. Fifty years later, he retired after serving as chief for 35 years, with a similarly long tenure on the advisory board for Macomb’s Fire Academy.

At the encouragement of daughter Brenda Alward, a Macomb professor, he started a scholarship this year to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

“It’s not an easy job, but it’s rewarding,” offered the chief in a virtual meeting with Charles Havern, the first recipient of the Gerald B. Alward Scholarship for the Fire Academy. “Always remember, you get out of it what you put into it.”

Havern came into firefighting by way of a cruise ship. He had just completed an associate degree in culinary arts at Macomb and had signed up for galley duties on a ship sailing out of Hawaii. Once on board, a call came out for volunteers for the ship’s fire team and Havern raised his hand.

Already realizing he did not want to spend his entire career in front of a stove, the practice drills and exercises the team engaged in were a revelation.

“I fell in love with it,” says Havern, a Warren native. “I went back to my cabin and began researching fire training programs in Michigan.”

Havern told the chief in their virtual meeting how much he appreciated the scholarship, not only because of the financial assistance, which was much needed during the 40-hour weeks of the 10-week academy, but also for the confidence it gave him in his own abilities.

Gerald Alward“I never really took school that seriously until my firefighting training,” says Havern, who graduated second in his fire academy class. “I had never done anything like this before. I just put everything on pause and pushed myself because it was something I really desired.”

After the chief encouraged him to continue to build upon his skills, Havern noted that he was beginning Macomb’s Emergency Medical Technician program with plans to obtain his paramedic license after that. His goal is to be hired by the Warren Fire Department.

“But I’m applying everywhere to get experience,” Havern told the chief. “Hopefully someday, you’ll hear about me in a good way.”

Since meeting virtually with the chief this past spring, Havern used some of his scholarship money to pay for his EMT training and received his license this summer. He also has been hired as a firefighter/EMT by the Chesterfield Fire Department. “I am the first firefighter in my family,” says Havern, “and proud of it!”

Macomb Community College Foundation develops resources for scholarships and college programs, along with supporting community members as they tap into the power of education to transform their lives. To learn how you can change lives through your support of MCC Foundation, contact Brianna Bentley at 586.445.7302 or