Mike Reese ’86 is Giving Back
by Susan Shelly
For Michael Reese ’86, it’s all about giving back.
Serving his community and alma mater is non-negotiable for Michael Reese ’86, who retired from a 30-year career with the city of Reading in 2011 and now works as a certified recovery specialist. When he’s not working, chances are good that he’s putting in time for Albright College or volunteering in the Reading community.
“I think we have a responsibility as citizens to give back to our communities,” said Reese, who is 66. “It’s the rent you pay to live in civilization.”
Currently a member of Albright’s Board of Trustees, Reese served 14 years on the Alumni Board and volunteers with the Alumni Association mentoring program. He is a member of the Society of Black Alumni (SOBA) and the 1856 Legacy Society. Over the years, he’s assisted with many student and alumni activities and still attends Move-In Day picnics to welcome first-year students to campus.
While he is more than generous with his time and service to his alma mater, Reese also has looked to Albright for assistance since graduating with a degree in business administration from the college’s evening degree program, now known as the School of Professional Studies.
And when he was preparing to retire from his position as a clerk with the city of Reading, Reese sought advice from the Career Development Center.
“I was going to retire with a pension and health care, but I’m not one to sit around,” said Reese, a longtime union activist who was honored as the grand marshal of Reading’s Labor Day parade in 2012. “So, I went to the career center to get some advice.”
The advice he was given, to seek a part-time job so he’d still have ample time to volunteer, was sound.
“That strategy has worked very well for me,” Reese said. “I really enjoy my second career in recovery services, but I’ve been a volunteer since I was in 11th grade, and I can’t give that up. It’s an important part of Mike.”
In addition to his activities with Albright, Reese mentors students in the Million Youth Chess Club, and serves or has served as a board member for the Berks Community Action Program, Berks Community Health Center, Caron Foundation and the United Way of Berks County.
Teaching at-risk youth to play chess is particularly satisfying for Reese, who started playing chess when he was in high school.
“I’ve been playing chess for 50 years, and I’ve learned a lot from it,” he said. “I tell kids that life is like a chess game. It’s always best to think before you make a move.”
Reese enrolled at Albright after graduating from Reading Senior High School in 1973 but left to accept a position with Reading. He earned an associate degree from Reading Area Community College in 1978 and later returned to Albright to complete a bachelor’s degree.
“It was a long haul, but I did it and I’m grateful,” he said. “I think my education has helped me make better choices and gave me some discipline I needed. I’ve been blessed.”
Reese urges all Albright alumni to stay involved with the college and give back as they are able. It’s particularly important, he believes, to encourage students and provide help and mentoring when possible.
“I wish more students would take advantage of these mentoring opportunities,” Reese said. “Alumni are in a position to help students stay on the right path and graduate because we’ve already done that. It’s our turn to pay it forward.”
Reese noted the great steps Albright has taken in achieving an ethnic diversity rate of 50% and praised efforts to expand and rebrand SOBA to increase its relevancy and membership.
“When I grew up here in the 1960s, Albright was all white,” he said. “The complexion and age demographics of the college have really changed, and that’s a good thing. We’re definitely on the right track.”