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Mike Mooney talks with a student after speaking to prospective students at an ­Admissions event in February 2009.

It’s hard to believe, but when you talk with Michael A. Mooney ’76 H&HD, he’ll tell you he was a complete knucklehead (his word) when he entered Penn State Beaver.

Today everyone can tell you that’s not true and that’s not the person they know as executive vice president and chief lending officer of Fidelity Bank, a position he’s held since 1991 at the $750 million financial institution.  

“I say that about myself because I came to Penn State Beaver not knowing what I wanted to do,” Mike laughed. “I didn’t understand what it would take to be truly successful, and I felt like I was drifting. I really didn’t know what college was all about.”

But he learned, and quickly.

Upon graduating from Penn State, Mike decided to begin a career in banking and became a management trainee at Equibank.

He left there as an assistant vice president of community banking to move to Landmark Savings, where he was vice president of retail banking for 34 branches. From there, he moved into his current position at Fidelity.

Mike’s mom encouraged him to attend Penn State. “She told me I’d get a great education close to home at Beaver campus,” said Mike, a native of Bellevue. “She was right. My experience at Beaver was outstanding. I had great fun and adventures every day, and made lifelong friends. The academic as well as athletic programs were incredible and really shaped who I am today.”

“I knew Penn State was my home away from home,” Mike said. “I felt safe and welcomed and enjoyed tremendous social opportunities, but also found the academic side of the house to be especially demanding.”

In his freshman year, Mike played varsity basketball and also enjoyed playing intramural sports, including football, softball and basketball. He noted that intramural sports were very competitive during his time at Beaver.

“I was constantly challenged in the classroom as well as on the playing fields,” he said, “and I welcomed that because I knew that the professors and coaches were there to ensure that I succeeded, no matter what ups and downs came along. That’s a great feeling because you know that these people, these mentors, are as anxious for you to succeed as you are.”

“I know that the high standards I was held to in the classroom and in athletics at Beaver led me to develop a strong sense of leadership,” Mike said. “In addition to establishing a great rapport with my professors and coaches, I began to realize that I should have confidence in myself and my work, and that I could do anything that I really wanted to do if I worked hard enough.”

Mike fondly remembers Dr. Jack Ciciarelli ’67 MS, ’71 Ph.D. EMS, retired assistant professor of earth and mineral sciences as well as retired coaches Eldon Price ’61 H&HD, ’67 MEd Edu, who was also the campus athletic director, and Jim Karwoski.

“The discipline I learned from them and the expectations they had of me combined to make me want to succeed, to get ahead in every way,” he said. “Their belief in me built my own self-confidence and self-esteem. They were determined to see me succeed, and that increased my desire to achieve, to get ahead and to make them proud of me. They were wonderful mentors and teachers who helped me set goals and understand what it takes to get what you want out of life.”

Mike’s son, Shane Mooney, is a freshman at Beaver. “Beaver helped me prepare well for the real world,” Mike said, “and I know my son will have the same experience. He’s a great hockey player, which has taught him discipline, but I also see increasing signs of maturity and responsibility. Those will continue to bloom at Beaver campus and carry him into his future.”

“I hope he’ll learn the value of independence, as I did at Beaver, and find his place in the world,” Mike reflected. “He already understands the importance of hard work so I hope he has some of the same kinds of experiences I did at Penn State. If he does, he’ll come to understand that the wisdom of others often leads you to understand yourself much better than you ever thought you would or could.”

Not exactly the thoughts and words of a knucklehead.

Mike, who laughs at his self-description, agrees.

“I’ve come pretty far, I guess,” he said. “I worked hard and played hard and I still do. It’s a winning combination that can really get you somewhere in life, especially when Penn State’s with you all the way.”

 

Originally written by Amy M. Krebs for the Penn State Beaver Nittany News alumni magazine, Spring 2009