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Giving Back: One Gift at a Time

Giving Back: One Gift at a Time
Michael Arena ’04 is expert in helping others. It’s been the focus of his career and a priority away from work. His education at The College at Brockport served as a watershed– both personally and professionally -- for the course his life has taken since graduating at the age of 50. Upon graduation, he found a new career and new direction. To acknowledge the importance of his Brockport education, he recently made a gift to support the Department of Nursing.

For the past 21 years, Arena has worked at Strong Memorial Hospital. He was a respiratory therapist and neonatal pediatric specialist during his first 10 years there. When he began that position in 1994, he looked into getting his nursing degree at the University of Rochester. Unfortunately, he was told his credits accumulated over the previous 20 years – including an associate’s degree at Monroe Community College – would not transfer and that he would have to enroll as a freshman.

That was discouraging news for Arena. He didn’t believe he could commit to taking on a four-year degree program while working a full-time job. It wasn’t until five years later when a chance meeting with a nursing professor at Brockport renewed Arena’s desire to complete his bachelor’s degree. When he learned from the faculty member that most of his previous credits would transfer to Brockport, he realized he was well on his way to earning his degree. Five years later, his dream was realized.

“Getting a bachelor’s degree was always a high school goal,” says Arena. “At that point, I wanted to be a doctor so I was thinking beyond that. But that never happened. To do it at 50 -- it was something for me. It was a long, hard struggle.”

Arena remained on staff at Strong throughout his time at Brockport. With his new degree in hand, he was able to become an ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) board certified psychiatric mental health nurse. He credits the Psychiatric – Mental Health Nursing course he took in his final semester as the catalyst for his new position at Strong.

“Here I was in my late 40s kind of feeling a little lost,” recalls Arena. “I couldn’t really go further in the profession I was in without going back to school to learn what I already knew. Then, the doors opened for me. The nursing department at Brockport accepting me as an older adult student was a gift that I have been repaying ever since.”

Arena is the current and a past president of the Omicron Beta Chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. After completing a four-year stint as STTI’s president in 2010, he was asked to take on the same leadership role in July 2014 for another two years. He also serves on Brockport’s Department of Nursing Community Advisory Board as well as the School of Health and Human Performance Board of Ambassadors.

Arena’s gift will be in the form of unrestricted support to the nursing program and was created by way of a charitable life insurance policy. It’s a way for him to make a significant gift to the College with a minimal impact on his current lifestyle.

“I hope this sets an example for others to give,” he adds. “Maybe someday people will want to be like me,” he says with a chuckle.

Charitable Life Insurance


There are two ways to make a gift of life insurance to the Brockport Foundation. The first is simply to name the Foundation as a beneficiary of the policy. The second is to transfer ownership of the policy to the Foundation and to make cash contributions for the payment of premiums. Since these two options provide different tax benefits it is important to consult your financial advisor to determine which plan works best in your specific situation. For more information about making a life insurance gift to The College at Brockport, please contact Brad Schreiber ’83 at (585) 395-5161 or bschreib@brockport.edu.

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