President of the Friends of the Penfield Public Library
To Kathy Weber, President of the Penfield Public Library Foundation
Mike: I have a nice life. I live in the suburbs. I have a good education and have been able to send my children to good schools. A library is the reason I have the life I have today.
I grew up on a farm in East Texas. Most of my classmates are still living on the farms in East Texas where we all grew up. They live in dire poverty of the kind that most people in Penfield can't imagine.
Kathy: What made the difference between your life and the lives of your classmates?
Mike: A lady used to round up kids and take them to an old Carnegie Library in Palestine, Texas. It was built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the Depression. Even as a child, I could see that it was a beautiful building, with beautiful woodwork.
The lady took the group of kids in her car to the library every week, so the kids could return their books and get new ones. I read constantly and remember the Hardy Boys series as a favorite. By 6th grade, I was reading at the 11th grade level. Because I could read well, I did well in school.
Kathy: Tell me about your schooling.
Mike: I did well in high school, which enabled me to attend Texas A & M. I chose engineering because I knew I could make a lot of money. I was successful in college.
Growing up on a farm, I knew how to work. Because I was an avid reader from my early years, I could read all the college textbooks, and graduated at the top of my class.
My work as an undergraduate led to an offer of a fellowship for graduate school at the University of Austin. Near the end of my time in graduate school, I worked on projects with Dell and Texas Instruments. This led to job opportunities when I finished my Ph.D.
Kathy: What do you think about when you reflect on your life?
Mike: It all started with a lady who took kids to the library. I did the same thing with my kids.
At age 60, I got a job offer that would require me to move to Sarasota, Florida. I didn't want to move south, so I stayed here.
Working with the Friends of the Penfield Public Library and serving as their Co-President has given me one way to help the community. My good life started with a lady who took a group of kids to the library every week. Now I'm paying it forward.
This conversation was edited and condensed.