For Professor Michalson’s retirement, The Catalyst made a Google Form and invited alumni and current students to share any thoughts and memories. Here are some of their stories.
Dr. Mike was my first advisor at New College, and played a bigger role than he might realize in shaping my experience at the school. I have a very clear and cherished memory of sitting in his office as a homesick first year, and Dr. Mike asking me genuine, thoughtful questions not about academics, but rather about my personal life, family, etc. Even when it was clear pretty early on that I would not be pursuing his field of study, he made a consistent effort to make me feel valued and cared for. This continued well beyond the initial period of time that he was my advisor. I am very grateful for his presence during my time at New College.Julia de Aragón, Cohort of 2013
Professor Michalson was a caring and thoughtful mentor who helped many students think through difficult material. He was on my thesis committee, supported my entire academic journey from New College to UVA and Harvard by writing recommendations and offering advice, and was always willing to have frank discussions about the state of academia and our places within it. His loyal service to New College as President as well as his care for his students and for philosophy has made an impact on generations of students and on New College’s continuation as an institution.Chelsea Hall, Cohort of 2002
When I was working on the Catalyst, I remember trying to hunt down Dean Mike for a quote on some story, I forget which. I caught him coming out of Cook Hall and he politely said he didn’t have time to talk as he had to run out to pick up some wine for a fundraiser dinner or some such.
“Dean Michalson declined comment as he rushed to the liquor store,” I said out loud as I pretended to write it in my notebook. He sighed, shut his car door and walked over to give me the quote.
Dean Mike was a strong supporter of the Catalyst in those early days, which helped cement the paper as something of an institution.Rocky Swift, Cohort of 1994
I was lucky to have Mike as a professor a couple of times in the years when he was primarily occupied with leading our transition into independence within the state university system. Almost all of my professors at New College were outstanding, but I was more than a little surprised to discover that our president was easily among the best of them. Who is this person? I ended up learning a lot from Mike, and in retrospect it is no surprise that a person who decided to make an academic career of reclaiming Kant’s works on religion from the exclusive domain of Christian apologists would end up being the best person around for the job of interpreting the value of a robust liberal arts education to an increasingly anti-intellectual state government. I was sad for New College as an institution when Mike retired as president, although I was happy for him as well as for the religion students. And to hear he is retiring as a professor is bitter-sweet in the same way. I’m just grateful to be influenced by such a skilled listener, thinker, and leader.Philip Eldred, Cohort of 2002
I served as NCSA President for calendar year 2008, and it was a pleasure to work with President Michalson. Especially seen in hindsight, his way of dealing with the student government was very patient, thoughtful and supportive in a farsighted way. I felt that he tried hard to give us as much autonomy as possible given the constraints he was operating under, including on the issues related to walls and Palm Court Parties. And he was supportive of students having real authority in the governance of the college, including having effective control of the NCSA budget which was sizable at that time (about $ 425,000 annually).
Also, when I mentioned to him that I was interested in getting involved in the college’s government relations activities, he casually started inviting me to meetings with the college’s lobbying team and state legislators, where I got to see a fair number of consequential discussions. He was very patient and welcoming of me despite the fact that many of these conversations were well above my experience level. This was a very eye-opening and educational experience for the younger version of myself. He later provided me a thoughtful letter of recommendation, reflecting on his experience working with me in the student government context, that helped me apply to graduate schools.
President Michalson’s management style was understated and patient – he had a light touch – but he nevertheless he had a great vision and a lot of skill. In his subtle way, he guided the college safely through those years. He also always took time to teach and work directly with students, even when his administrative duties were intense. He likely won’t accept the credit that is due him, but I think we owe him a real debt.Benjamin Brown, Cohort of 2005