Mike’s academic career started as a part-time community college student. He has been a milkman, worked in a large retail store, sold vacuum cleaners, and upholstered restaurant-and-bar furniture; which made him realize it was time to go to college full-time.
“My full-time undergraduate work was at SUNY Albany as a Biology/Chemistry major and Art minor,” says Mike. “I started fencing while there in a class with Michael Caprio and the club with the great Frank Collins. I worked in the college print shop and at a Sealy mattress factory during summers and afternoons. I also met Sara, who I’d marry after a while.”
During his undergraduate days, Mike fell in love with invertebrates and looked to continue in that field. There were only four or five programs in the eastern half of the country, and he wound up at Memphis State University, now University-at-Memphis. At Memphis State, Mike was assigned Dr. Walter Wilhelm as a major advisor. He was a parasite biologist, so that became Mike’s sub-discipline.
“Also at Memphis, I became a teaching assistant, and in my first set of assignments the coordinator misread my background – I was assigned a laboratory for vertebrate embryology, a senior-level course full of folks headed to med school, when I had never even had a vertebrate class of any kind,” says Mike. “The coordinator couldn’t switch it, though, so with three days notice, I taught myself the physical and laboratory aspects of embryology and learned to read sections through whole tiny bodies. From then on, I was the guy who taught the classes that nobody, including me, had the background for. There’s no better way to learn new material than the icy panic that sets in when you know that you’ll not just be teaching it, but answering lots of questions about it!”
Mike applied back to SUNY Albany graduate school and discovered that teaching was a lower priority there than research and he‟d rather be doing more teaching. “After about a year-and-a-half, I moved on to teaching high school and coaching track and fencing,” says Mike. “I then went on to teach at Fulton-Montgomery Community College which has been a great fit for me; the population needs good teaching, and often appreciates it. The age and ethnicity mixes are fascinating and challenging, and I can continue to coach fencing, create or recreate courses, and not have to ‘teach for the exam’.”