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Michael Donnelly ’02

Michael Donnelly '02

Donor Profile

Tell us about your Dickinson experience.

Dickinson was, and remains, the most pivotal experience of my lifetime. At Dickinson, I met my lifetime forever friends, Sarah (Howell) Hottinger ’01 and Matt Fahnestock ’02. I was afforded so many incredible opportunities that provided a jumping-off point into a world of global competency and cultural understanding. In short, I am who I am today because I was gifted the opportunity to attend Dickinson.

How has Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you?

I think I was somewhat unique when I applied to Dickinson, because I knew from the age of 5 that I wanted to be an educator (well, “teacher” back then, but that has since expanded in scope of influence). That said, attending Dickinson allowed for me to try so many unique courses and really hone in on areas of interest. Where else can one go and not only study abroad for an entire academic year but also successfully earn a major, a minor and two certificates?  Suffice it to say, the “try it all” philosophy of a liberal-arts institution, and particularly Dickinson, made the undergraduate experience incredibly meaningful.

What inspired your gift to Dickinson?

I give back annually because I was afforded the opportunity to attend Dickinson, in part, because of gracious alumni from generations before me. Were it not for the financial-aid package I received, Dickinson would not have been a reality for me. Raised in a very humble family, with a stay-at-home mom and a father in the Navy, I was told by my parents that college is an investment in oneself. With the incredible financial support I received, including participation in the Teachers for Tomorrow program, I was able to make Dickinson a reality—and I would have had it no other way!  So for me, it’s important to give back to the institution that helped form who I am so that high-school students looking for the “right fit” can find Dickinson and feel a part of a community that they deserve to be a part of for their four years and beyond.

What do you hope your gift will do for fellow Dickinsonians?

We are all in this together. I often say that although we are small, we are mighty. Dickinsonians are everywhere. I could go on and on about the various encounters I have had with folks who are either Dickinson graduates or have a connection to the college—I’m sure we all can. That, in and of itself, is what makes Dickinson so special. Dickinsonians are faithful and committed. Together, by giving back to the college, we can ensure that current and future students will have an equal, if not better, experience than we did.

Why do you feel that it’s important to give back to Dickinson?

Honestly, it’s the right thing to do. Dickinson was incredibly formative for me and for all of my peers. We are who we are today because of that experience. To that end, it is our responsibility to give back to ensure that our alma mater continues to offer incredible and unique educational opportunities to its current and future students.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?

There are so many from which to choose!  For me, though, my most impactful experience (other than meeting my RA, Sarah (Howell) Hottinger ‘01 during Move-In Day in August of 1998) would be my spring semester abroad in Querétaro, México. It was there that I truly became bilingual and experienced some of the most amazing opportunities that I could have had as a young 20-year-old! Dickinson’s global studies programs are world-class and second to none.

What do you do outside of work?

In my professional life, as an educator, I wear many hats, as the district in which I serve is quite small. I am both assistant superintendent and an elementary school principal. That, in and of itself, takes up the bulk of my time, but it’s all good! Outside of work, I love to travel and experience cultures. Most of all, though, I truly value any opportunity I can to steal away some time with friends.

What advice would you give to today’s students?

Simply put, be present. We live in a society engulfed by social media and screen time. Be sure to put down your phone and devices and be present. Enjoy the times you meet your friends at the “cushies” to rally for dinner in the cafe or at the SNAR. Log off Insta and TikTok and enjoy some quiet time on Morgan Field. Experience all that Dickinson has to offer you so that you, too, can reflect on your time there with incredible memories that will surely last with you for your entire life.

Read more donor profiles.



Published December 5, 2022