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Thanking Founding Director Professor Mike Marasco

If I’ve learned anything about Mike Marasco in the nearly 10 years that I’ve known him, it’s this: he has knack for seeing strengths and passions in people that they may not even know are there, and then doggedly working to nurture that in them. I know this because it was my personal experience with Mike.

 

When I first came to the Farley Center to work with Mike as the assistant director, I was fresh out of law school, interested in entrepreneurship, but unsure of exactly what my path would be within the field. Mike believed in my ability to teach before I even knew I wanted to teach. All those years ago, when Mike was still teaching our NUvention Energy course, he asked me to give a guest lecture in class on “pivoting.” I was surprised. I was nervous. I’ll be honest, I didn’t entirely know what I was doing at the front of that classroom. But Mike saw something I didn’t see, and his belief in me was a spark that lit a fire. Five years and a couple career detours later, I was on faculty at the Farley Center, due in no small part to Mike’s advocacy and encouragement.

 

I’m just one of the thousands – literally, thousands – of lives Mike has touched over the years. He has taught over 2,500 students in two decades at Northwestern.  The number of times I saw a student enter one of his classes as simply entrepreneurship-curious, then go on to become a startup founder, became too many to count. From a chemistry PhD turned “wine revolutionary” to a former Obama staffer turned battery technology entrepreneur, Mike’s students always seemed transformed by his mentorship and guidance.

 

Not only does Mike see something in people and inspire them to go for it, but he’ll do everything in his power to help them achieve their dreams. He was always quick to open up his professional network and connect students and colleagues to those people and opportunities he knew would help them. He was more generous with his time than anyone I have ever worked with. It was the rare occasion that I would walk past his office and he wasn’t in there meeting with a student. He wouldn’t hesitate to hop on a phone call with a student in the evenings or on weekends. Helping his students and colleagues achieve their goals was always among his highest priorities.

 

I was never Mike’s student in the classroom, but I nevertheless learned a lot from him. I learned how to teach with generosity and compassion. I learned to see my students as individuals with hopes and passions, which it is my responsibility and privilege to nurture. I learned that the relationships we build in our community here at Northwestern are among the most important things we’ll carry with us throughout our careers.

 

As Mike’s teaching career at Northwestern comes to a close, I want to say thank you to him, on behalf of everyone whose lives he changed over his many years here. And I want to say a personal thank you to him for teaching me how to teach with passion, authenticity, and an open heart. Mike will be missed at the Farley Center, but we know he’ll continue gracing those around him with his generosity of spirit, and we wish him all the best on this next chapter.

 

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