Mike ’69 and Kathi Piehler

The Piehler's passion for Fisher continues to grow through scholarships

Mike and Kathi Piehler

In 1965, Mike Piehler was a Basilian Seminarian assigned to be a student at St. John Fisher College after spending a Novitiate year in Pontiac, Michigan. At Fisher, he studied pre-med as a biology major. He recalls well that as a Basilian Scholastic, his focus remained on academics and athletics.

“As Seminarians, we interacted well with the rest of the student body and participated heavily in Fisher’s intramural athletic program. In fact, one year we won the ‘Triple Crown’ of Fisher’s intramurals: football, basketball and baseball champions,” he said.

Mike remembers fondly several faculty members, but those who he says still resonate with him today are Dr. Wendell Howard, Dr. Mel Wetland, Dr. Joan Rowan, Fr. Robert Miller, CSB, Dr. Robert McLaughlin, and Dr. Aleksey Sirotenko.

“These teachers and many others did more than affect my career trajectory which at that time was to be a doctor/priest,” he said. “Most importantly, these teachers helped me shape a focused work ethic and a philosophy of life that were fundamental to the career that I finally chose, which is a car dealer/deacon. Funny how the Lord works.”

His Fisher experience didn’t end when he graduated. In 1970, he left the Basilian seminary and became assistant to the dean of students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. One year later, then Fisher president Fr. Charles Lavery, CSB, hired Mike to serve as the College’s director of residence halls. That same year, he was asked to be an assistant to the athletic director, Bobby Wanzer, for intramural sports. By 1972, he was hired to be Fisher’s head football coach and led the team to a 5 and 2 record that year.

“More importantly we played Fisher’s first football game on campus and wow look where it is today! It was an honor to be a part of it,” recalled Mike.

Fast forward many years later when Mike and his wife Kathi were thinking of ways to honor his late parents. His father, A. Michael Piehler, went to college with Fr. Lavery and Fr. Joseph Dorsey, CSB, at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. His mother, Allison, grew to “love the Basilian Fathers” after getting to know them through her husband. Mike says the Basilians were a large part of his family and his initial interest in the Seminary. So, a scholarship gift to Fisher, the very place founded by the Basilian Fathers, seemed like just the right idea.

The A. Michael Piehler scholarship was established and used by the College for any student in financial need and found worthy of assistance. Since that time, Mike and Kathi have expanded the name of the scholarship fund to include Mike’s mother and have narrowed its focus to specifically give financial assistance to students recognized as Learning Disabled. The reason for this focus is very close to their hearts. When asked why, they explain this:

“What do you think the following people have in common? Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Tommy Hilfiger, George Washington, Michael Phelps, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Charles Schwab. They all have some form of a learning disability or ADHD. They all admit to having had a difficult school experience; some not even finishing formal schooling because of it. But, they all are successful in their chosen field despite both their educational challenges and sometimes their social challenges (ridicule and bullying). We could also add to this list the name of the kid who lives next door to you or who is in your child’s class at school or who is the person who is sitting in your pew in Church.

Fortunately, the educational world is starting to become more aware of the fact that students with ‘Learning Disabilities’ could be more accurately described as having a Learning Difference (simply needing to be taught in a different manner) or learning disAbility (emphasis on the ability). It is important to note that these students have average to above average IQ scores, with some even in the genius category.

Our goal, by establishing this scholarship, is to recognize the potential of students with learning disabilities, as well as to promote a better understanding of the abilities of these students by the educational institutions of today. In our opinion, Fisher makes a genuine effort to customize and personalize each student’s educational experience and as such is the perfect environment for the motivated Learning Disabled student. Through the A. Michael and Allison M. Piehler scholarship, our hope is to highlight the value of the learning disabled student to St. John Fisher College and society in general.”

Gifts like these that come from such a place of passion make a real difference in the lives of so many Fisher students, and lasting impact on the College.

“Fisher has a clear understanding of its mission and how to achieve it. The founders of Fisher, the Basilian Fathers, gave Fisher its mission to teach Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge; a mission that is more important in today’s world than ever. Fisher is not a factory, Fisher has a soul – and that is why we continue to support the College,” the couple said.