Michael J. Krajsa ’67

Alumnus inspires others by encouraging growth through experiential learning.

If you were a retired college professor who was once the recipient of the Atherton Award for Teaching Excellence at Penn State University (out of about 6,000 other faculty) and were awarded the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) International Teacher Excellence Award for Creativity, Innovation and Community Involvement out of a pool of faculty from 800 universities around the world (while teaching at DeSales University), what would you be doing on a Tuesday in November?

If you’re Mike Krajsa ’67 (photographed back row, center), you’d be spending seven hours on election day handing out literature at the polls for a former student, Nick Miller, now the youngest State Senator-Elect in 125 years (at the age of 27)!  

Life is made up of a series of networks and experiences. No one knows this better than Mike Krajsa.

Mike’s father, Joseph Krajsa Sr., was editor of the JEDNOTA newspaper, a Slovak fraternal society’s human rights newspaper headquartered outside of Harrisburg. Mike has memories from boyhood of opportunities to attend State Department Briefings in the Thomas Jefferson Room of the State Department Building in Washington, D.C. Despite these incredible experiences in his early years, such as meeting the likes of President Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, and John Glenn, these events were not what changed the trajectory of Mike’s young life.

What did, however, was at Joseph Sr.’s 25th class reunion at East Stroudsburg University. There, he reconnected with Dr. Stephen Roberts, a former history teacher and mentor during his time as a student. During that period, Dr. Roberts was Head of School at Perkiomen. When Joseph Sr. mentioned that he was seeking a new school for his sons, the rest, as they say, is history.  

Dean Ralph Hossman believed Mike and his late brother, Joseph ’66, should restart their years as a sophomore and junior, respectively, but when they enrolled at Perkiomen after the holidays, they flourished. In fact, Mike would go on to be Valedictorian of his class! His two and a half years as a student at Perkiomen were a whirlwind of acclimating to a new school amongst a diverse community of peers, playing tennis (he and Joseph were excellent doubles partners), being involved with The Perkiomenite, The Griffin, and the Yeomen glee club, in addition to enjoying dinners at Dr. and Mrs. Roberts’ home.

“Perkiomen changed the trajectory of both of our lives,” shares Mike. “It gave us a bigger world view.” And that’s saying something, given that their father’s newspaper had an international audience in 120 countries!

Within those short years at Perkiomen, Mike and his brother took the foundation of determination, empathy, and hard work from their parents and learned additional skills that would follow them for a lifetime. According to Mike, Perkiomen and its faculty delivered in both compassion and expectations in and out of the classroom. Teachers knew if you weren’t working to your potential and spoke to you about it. Breakfast was mandatory, morning chapel began promptly at 8 a.m., and it was lights out at 9:45 on the dot. Mike learned time management and took his role as a student very seriously. The encouragement he received from the Perkiomen community fueled his confidence and determination leading to a full life of achievement, adventure, and giving back.

There’s a fire and driven spirit within Mike that is oriented toward social justice movements and motivating the lives of others as he identifies himself as an Eagle Scout, Valedictorian, educator, philanthropist, mentor, and world traveler (he hiked for 10 days in New Mexico as a Boy Scout in New Mexico, reached the summit of Mount Rainier at the age of 42, and then conquered the Inca Trail in Peru with students when he was 60!). Speaking to him, one can’t help but feel energized and inspired.

“Encouragement helps with creativity,” Mike says, thinking of his students. “You encourage others even if they stumble. This helps build confidence and a determination to get up and succeed.”

As a teacher, it was important to Mike that his students think outside of the box when it came to their coursework and applying those lessons outside of the classroom. He continues, “We’re not getting people to the moon with just one type of person. We all pull different skill sets.”

Mike found ways to cultivate tools and skills within his students so they were prepared to face whatever came next. These skills came from experiences: etiquette dinners, networking events, and experiential trips to China, Peru, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Jamaica.

“Meet people at their level,” Mike says, thoughtfully. “My students don’t remember the articles I assigned them to read. It’s cool that we DID something. The other stuff follows.” That “stuff” is confidence: confidence from being encouraged and taught to be attentive, observant, and to take opportunities as they arrive. It’s what Mike’s teachers (like Nelson Hayes and Rob Hare) instilled in him at Perkiomen and it’s what he passed along to his students. It’s what fueled the drive behind Mike’s philanthropic work with LifePath in the Lehigh Valley and the entrepreneurial Penn State Lehigh Valley Launchbox program, of which he is a founding member. The possibilities behind hands-on, experiential learning are also what motivated him to give back to the Michael J. Krajsa ’67 Entrepreneur Institute at Perkiomen.

Thinking upon his life experiences, Mike reflects: There are three types of people: ones who dive in, others who go in a little at a time, and still others who will never go in at all. Mike’s philosophy has always been that if you’re going to get wet, just go get wet! Contributing a portion of his estate to the Entrepreneur Institute at Perkiomen will provide countless Perkiomen Panthers the tools and skills they need to flourish and succeed in their lives. With the support and encouragement from their teachers, they’ll discover what motivates them. After all, “it’s not who you know,” as Mike is famous for saying. “It’s who you let know you!”