Michael J. Fox: Mountain Man

Michael J. Fox is Dean of Enrollment and Marketing at NVU.

Were you ever made fun of for your name?

No, aside from the ladies at church that would joke with me as a kid. Most of the time I would get the “Back to the Future” reference or Alex P. Keaton from “Family Ties” but it really depends on the generation in terms of what you know. The younger generation knows Michael J. Fox in “the Good Wife” and stuff like that, but people my age knows “Back to The Future” and “Secret to My Success” and stuff like that.

Are you a fan of the actor Michael J. Fox?

I am a fan. I do enjoy the “Back to The Future” series because I enjoy some of the sci-fi type stuff. I think he is a very talented actor and I always kind of joke, ” I don’t have his money but I also don’t have his health ailments either.” I think he’s a good advocate for Parkinson’s disease and he seems like a very nice guy, but I’m also happy to be taller than him as well. He’s quite short.

Are you a big hiker?

I am. I’ve hiked almost every weekend. My family is also here with me as well. I have my wife Pam, my daughter Rowan, and I have a Pit bull/Mastiff/Great Dane mix whose name is Boulder. We hike pretty much every weekend. We have done almost a little bit of everything. We’ve also spend a lot of time on the lakes and we have a boat. We’ve gone out to Lake Willoughby, the reservoir in Waterbury and Lake Champlain. So either hiking or boating is how we spend our weekends in the summer. I’m also a big snowboarder, so I’m anxious for the snow to get here and I just bought my daughter my first snowboard so she’s going to get that for her birthday in a couple of weeks. My wife snowboards as well so we are big outdoors people. That’s why we are here. That’s one of the big reasons why we moved from the Midwest because there are no mountains. Wanted to get back because I had grown up in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. I grew up skiing and snowboarding, I was a snowboard instructor in college. We really do like being outdoors and we do pretty much everything.

How did you end up here?

I worked in admissions at the school that I graduated from, Wilkes University. I worked as work-study student in the office as a senior and did some recruiting for the football and lacrosse programs and they had a counselor leave in the middle of the year. They had asked me if I was interested in converting that territory for them. I did financial aid calls, did a little bit of traveling, and got introduced to the admissions counselor role. I applied for that in June after I graduated, got the job, and worked at Wilkes for seven years. I got married in 2013 and moved to Washington D.C., where my wife was a teacher. We lived there for two years while I worked an outside sales job, and then the Wilkes VP that hired me as an admissions counselor actually moved out to the school that he started at in Iowa. I went out there and became the Director of Admissions and then worked there for three years. I had a great time, but honestly I was looking for a way to get back to the mountains. I looked in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Vermont and New York. I had several interviews, got a couple of job offers and Vermont was what really spoke to me, so in July, my wife and I packed up and drove 21 hours to get here.

Word has it you are a fan of ice cream. Are you?

I am. At Wilkes University, when I was a student, they have a lecture series much like they do here at NVU. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, spoke on the tour to our class about entrepreneurship. I’ve always known about Ben & Jerry’s and really appreciated them. I found their story very interesting, obviously it’s very Vermont and it’s selling things out of the back of your car and becoming this huge corporation. I thought that it’s very inspiring. I told President Collins that it kind of changed the trajectory of what I wanted to do in college because I was looking into secondary education and then switched it to more of communications and PR just because I knew I needed to find something that I would be passionate about. And now that I’m in Vermont, it resonates very well. Half-baked is probably my favorite flavor.

Do you have any obsessions?

I’m very passionate about my family. I do really enjoy being with them. We take a lot of trips and spend a lot of time together in the outdoors. I think that’s what I’m most passionate about. This job requires me to interact with a lot of people and be engaging and outgoing in the nature of the job. So when I can be out in the woods and it’s very nice and quiet and scenic, I enjoy that aspect of life.

Tell us about your dog Boulder.

So we rescued him from a home in Virginia when we were in D.C. We drove down to Virginia found him on Petfinder, and rescued him from a kill shelter. Boulder was a compromise because I wanted a big dog and my wife wanted a small dog to start out with. He had a great personality, but he was malnourished and we needed to get him back to a point where he was healthy again. We were thinking of names and I’m a mountain-focused person. Boulder, Colorado has quite a few mountains. When you see Boulder, you can understand his name choice because his head is shaped like a boulder so his name just stuck as soon as we saw him.

What’s your favorite memory?

My dad passed a couple years ago, and I played sports all my life. I played football in high school and college, played lacrosse in college, and grew up playing basketball and tennis with my dad. Playing sports with him is something that I look back on. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania and it resonates with Johnson, because it isn’t a very big city either. So we did a lot of family stuff, took a lot of family vacations. My dad was very sport focused, didn’t matter what sport, so we were always doing something like that. Probably playing sports with my dad is something that I remember the most.

Who are three people that you would most like to dine with?

I am a huge Steve Jobs fan. I very much enjoy some of his business sense, some of his leadership stuff. There’s some stuff that is questionable on how he treated people, but I respect how he moved us forward as a culture. I would give anything to have dinner with my dad again, that would be very nice. I have a profound respect for President Obama. I think I wouldn’t mind sitting with him and getting an idea for his time in office. A lot of things changed while president. Some of his philosophies on life changed and how he values individuals from the LGBTQ community. I would be curious in terms of how he came to those decisions to be able to understand that his philosophies that he had when he was office in Illinois and how they changed over the time as a political figure. He just gave a speech for Nelson Mandela’s birthday so he has a respect for people outsides the United States and his role now with the changing political landscape, because it always changes after you leave office. I would be interested to spend some time with him. I’ve had the opportunity, through the lecture series, to hear people like Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Leon Panetta; just some political figures that they have all done tremendous things within their lifetime, probably more than I will ever be able to do, and I have a profound respect for many things they do. I may not agree with their policies and what they did politically, but there is no doubt that they were great leaders and that they had a wealth of information to share.

What would you like written on your tombstone?

To be honest, I don’t intend on having a tombstone. I kind of intend to be cremated because I would love for myself to become part of the earth when I am all done. My wife and I agreed that if I go before her, she would scatter my ashes over a mountaintop somewhere where we either snowboard or have hiked. I don’t know where that would be yet, there are still a lot of places that I would like to see. We spent time in Jackson, Wyoming; which is probably my favorite place in the world. We went out there snowboarding a couple years ago with my wife and my friend, who is in the Air Force, and we had a couple of trips like that. So that’s probably how it would go if I had to pick it.