Faith, family, friends and finance.
Listening to MTSU business professor Frank Michello and those who know him well, it quickly became clear that those four words have been driving forces behind a life and professional career that was honored this week when the longtime educator accepted the 2019 John Pleas Faculty Award.
Michello, who is also director of the Master of Science in Finance program in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, boasts more than 30 years of experience teaching mathematics and finance.
A crowd of about 100 attendees made up of family, friends, colleagues, church members and admirers were on hand Thursday, Feb. 21, as Michello reflected on a journey that wouldn't have been possible, he said, without the support of colleagues such as MTSU economics professor Bichaka Fayissa, a previous Pleas Award winner, and finance chair Keith Gamble, who nominated Michello for the distinguished award.
"MTSU has been good to me by providing me the means and the opportunity to develop my academic and professional career, and to be the best that I can be," said Michello, who spent much of his remarks thanking those who have helped him throughout his career and those in attendance at the Ingram Center.
"As I finance professor, I am blessed to be able to do the job that I love and love the job that I do."
The John Pleas Faculty Award is presented each year to a black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service. The award is named for John Pleas, an MTSU professor emeritus of psychology.
And as he often is, the award's namesake was on hand to personally present the honor to someone who he had admired from afar when their tenures crossed on the Blue Raider campus and who quickly felt like a kindred spirit when they directly connected for lunch in the days leading up to Thursday's ceremony.
Pleas said he was struck by Michello's answer to the question of what he attributed to the success and accomplishments in his life, with Michello simply saying, "I am blessed." Pleas said it was the first time in his meeting with previous recipients that he'd gotten such a response, then added: "But I knew what he meant."
As they continued chatting over lunch, Pleas said Michello came to feel like "my younger brother," as they discovered numerous parallels in their upbringing.
"Here's a guy that feels like family to me. I bond with him, I know him," Pleas continued. "His perception, his sensitivity, his intellect … he is me."
In congratulating Michello on his "stellar career," MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the crowd that Michello represents "the outstanding faculty" who are attracted to the university and "who make MTSU the type of institution it is today."
Presiding over the ceremony was last year's Pleas Award recipient Louis Woods, an associate professor of history and director of the Africana Studies Program. Others honoring Michello with remarks were his wife, Sonja; Fayissa; Gamble; Jones College Associate Dean David Foote; colleague Pierre Vincent; former master's student Kyle Motley; sisters Janice Brown and Doris Carlton; and friend Paul Alexander.
Motley said he considers Michello a friend who is different from many other professors because of "his caring nature for his students."
A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Zambia, Michello teaches in both the finance master's degree program and in the concrete industry management and executive master's of business administration programs. His research interests include emerging markets, financial accounting, market microstructure, working capital management, portfolio performance evaluation and risk management.
Michello has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. He is a member of the Financial Management Association, the African Finance Association, the Academy of Economics and Finance, Financial Executives International and the Mid-West Finance Association.
On Feb. 14, Michello was one of five unsung community heroes honored at the 23rd annual Unity Luncheon, for his contributions to education. His previous awards include the 2018 MTSU True Blue Citation of Distinction; Outstanding Faculty Member in the Economics and Finance Department, 2002-03; Distinguished Assistant Professor, 2002-03; and Superior Faculty Advisor for 2006-07 from the Financial Management Association.
The Pleas Award presentation is part of MTSU's Black History Month celebrations.