Mike Wong, alumni services director for the Cronkite School, retires after nearly 40 years with ASU
If you are one of the nearly 600,000 Arizona State University alumni, you’ve likely heard the voice of Mike Wong, who has lent his voice to hundreds of ASU commencement ceremonies and athletics events during his nearly four-decade career with the university.
The director of alumni services at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication marked the end of an era by announcing his retirement last month.
According to Melissa Werner, executive director for university events and protocol, Wong began announcing commencement ceremonies in the early 2000s and his voice has touched the lives of thousands of alumni.
“Between graduates at ceremonies and audience members who are alumni, the number is tremendous,” she said. “I figure two graduation events a year – graduating about 12,000 students a year when he first started and now graduating 35,000 students a year — the numbers are staggering.”
Wong is an ASU alumnus himself, and during his nearly 40-year career with ASU, Wong has held a variety of positions — from part-time broadcast instructor to news manager at Arizona PBS (KAET-TV, Channel 8).
More recently though, he’s doubled as the voice of graduation and has been called “Mr. Connect” due to helping hundreds of future journalists and storytellers launch their own media careers through his role directing alumni services in the Cronkite School.
Werner, who is a Cronkite School alumna, said, “It's always been wonderful for me to be able to rely on Mike for his talent as a professional announcer. I think there’s a perception that the work is simple, but there’s so much information to track, an ability to be aware of timing, getting the pronunciation of names correct, and the list goes on and on. To say that he will be missed in his role is an understatement.”
Doug Tammaro, senior associate director of media relations for Sun Devil Athletics, has known Wong for decades and said Wong’s work as an announcer for hundreds of ASU games over the years was fantastic, efficient and excellent.
“‘How about that voice?’ were words often said by our fans and opponents when leaving our playing field when Mike was announcing, but above all, his caring for the sport was what we appreciate the most," Tammaro said. "He made visitors feel welcome and our own players feel special. No matter if there were 10 people or 1,000 people in the stands, Mike was going to do a great job in representing Sun Devil Athletics.”
“A voice is so tremendously personal," Werner said. "To have a voice like Mike’s — calm, commanding, friendly and able to convey the air of celebration — is a gift that we’ve all been able to enjoy for so many years.”
Christine Wilkinson, ASU senior vice president, secretary of the university and president of the Alumni Association, has also worked with Wong closely over the years and said she is proud of his contributions to generations of Sun Devils.
“Mike Wong is legendary as the voice of ASU in some of the most significant moments of ASU students’ lives, whether through his long, active mentorship of future professionals or being the 'voice of God' for commencement and convocation ceremonies," Wilkinson said. "We are proud he is a Sun Devil and know he will continue to be the voice at ASU games and other special events.”
“We worked with him on various projects at the Alumni Association, and it just won’t be the same,” said Tracy Scott, director of the ASU Alumni Association. “Not sure how he does it, but he seems to know each and every Cronkite alum no matter where they are in the world.”
In an email to Cronkite School alumni announcing his retirement, Wong drew parallels between his career and his Honda Pilot, which shuttled him to and from work for many years.
"The Pilot is a place where observations were made, phone conversations took place and ideas were hatched," Wong wrote.
He also explained why he stayed with the same organization for so long.
“Helping students get from point A to point B in their unique career paths ... and seeing them experience success was my lane. The enthusiastic and smart students kept filling the tank by bringing fresh ideas to the mix and kept me young at heart," he wrote.
“Mike, simply put, was a fantastic Sun Devil who wanted others to feel great about Arizona State and used his voice to do that for Sun Devil Athletics and his passion to do that for the Cronkite School," Tammaro said. "We are all better for it.”
Top image: Mike Wong goes over his notes before taking the mic to resume his emcee role at Graduate Commencement at Wells Fargo Arena in May 2017. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now