After a career as a CEO, he offers time, talent, and treasure to AFA
George Michel ‘49S has been many things in his life: MIT grad, military intelligence officer, titan of industry, sailing yachtsman, philanthropist, volunteer leader, and mentor. Not to mention a husband, father, and grandfather.
Before all these things, he was an Admiral Farragut Academy cadet.
“College prepared me for my career,” he said. “Farragut prepared me for life.”
Eventually, that life would include success as the long-time chairman and CEO of the Connecticut-based Stanadyne Inc. But just as Farragut had prepared him for life, his professional life prepared him for a return to Farragut.
It happened during a visit to the St. Petersburg campus in the early 1990s. Though impressed that the school was still in operation after the closing of the northern school, he sensed that things could and needed to be much better.
What Farragut needed, he told school leaders, was a more business-like approach to operations. So he asked them: “What is the blueprint for future success?”
Their answer: Help us create it.
Michel joined Farragut’s Board of Directors and soon became chairman, pouring his experience and expertise into the school. Under his guidance, Farragut’s leaders adjusted their approach.
“All you have to do is put the Academy into a business model and it becomes very clear what must be done,” he said, explaining that this included asking some basic questions: What’s our unique product? What is our market? How do we compete? How do we price it?
“Farragut is a business, a nonprofit business — not to say we don’t make a profit; We just keep all profits in the business,” said Michel, for whom both school’s Michel Building and, more recently, its new Board Room were named.
Eventually, he and Frank Wendt ‘42N co-founded the Admiral Farragut Academy Foundation. Through the foundation, the school is building an endowment, which Michel said gives the school more funds to expand facilities, engage outstanding teachers, improve equipment, upgrade teaching tools, and provide much-needed tuition assistance funds. These in turn drive enrollment, which keeps the school healthy and competitive.
The Foundation, to which Michel is a major donor, plans to have $10 million in assets by 2022. Today, it stands at $5 million.
How to bridge the gap?
“Alumni must support our growing endowment through giving — like buying shares in a company,” Michel said. “The ROI is our graduates who are leaders and make a difference in the world.”
If you’d like to donate to the Admiral Farragut Academy Foundation visit farragut.org/giving.