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It's the end of an era for ASU's 'voice of graduation'

March 7, 2023

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.” 

man standing next to Honda Pilot vehicle

Mike Wong, next to his Honda Pilot, where he spent thousands of hours commuting to and from work. Photo courtesy Mike Wong

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

Krista Hinz

Copy Writer , ASU Media Relations

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ASU community to celebrate 9th annual Sun Devil Giving Day

March 7, 2023

Join the conversation and follow along on social media with #SunDevilGiving

Arizona State University supporters worldwide will exercise their generosity on March 16 for the ninth annual Sun Devil Giving Day, a 24-hour universitywide day of giving.

Sun Devil Giving Day encourages supporters to give to the people, programs and causes they care about at ASU, fostering a culture of philanthropy within the ASU community. Whether it be to advance ASU’s goals for inclusion, student success, discovery or local and global impact, Sun Devil Giving Day is an opportunity for donors to fuel some of ASU’s most impactful initiatives.

Sun Devil Giving Day is ASU’s single largest day for donors to express their generosity and help make the world a better place, said Bill Kavan, vice president of engagement and outreach at the ASU Foundation for A New American University.                          

“Every gift is a building block in the long tradition of philanthropy, which helps to advance education and knowledge. The first gift to ASU was the land that the campus still sits on today, and while the university has changed over the years, philanthropy remains fundamental to supporting student success and improving society,” Kavan said.  

Last Sun Devil Giving Day, the ASU community donated over 4,300 gifts and raised over $880,000. This year’s goal is to inspire over 1,000 new donors and over 4,500 gifts.

“Success to me is having someone find a way to support their personal passions through ASU. No matter one’s passion, there’s a way to have a positive impact in partnership with ASU and other donors,” Kavan said.

The impact of generosity

Private philanthropic support is critical to ASU’s success and has a real and lasting impact.

For Madeline Hall, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, private support from the ASU Women and Philanthropy Scholarship enables her to focus on her studies and pursue her passion for public service.  

“I was thrilled to receive a scholarship. It allowed me to focus more on making the most of my collegiate experience. And I was especially honored to have the ASU Women and Philanthropy Scholarship because it recognizes community service, which is something I'm passionate about,” Hall said.

An aspiring physician, Hall volunteers with the Refugee Education and Clinic Team, or REACT, a partnership between ASU and the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine that works to bridge the health care gap within Maricopa County’s refugee community.

At a clinic on the West campus, she helps volunteers provide primary care and steer people into long-term or established care.

“When refugees come to the U.S., they’ve been through all of these experiences I can’t even begin to imagine, and I’m glad I can contribute in some way,” Hall said.

Devin Dye, a 2019 ASU graduate and a development officer at the ASU Foundation, who raises support for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, saw the impact of scholarship support during his undergraduate and graduate years.

Dye remembers the first time he truly understood the impact of generosity as a child. He recounts how a stranger approached his grandfather in a parking lot for help.

“And my grandfather, without hesitation, opened his wallet and helped that person out with what he could at the time,” Dye said. “Just a simple act of kindness being so powerful. It's something I'll always remember. And that generosity just has stayed with me forever.”

Whether it’s students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents or the wider community, everyone is encouraged to participate in the Sun Devil Giving spirit to connect with their values and giving passions.

Matching funds

Many donors will provide matching gifts to select funds on Sun Devil Giving Day.

For example, the Next Generation Council, ASU alumni working to uphold principles of the ASU Charter, will match gifts up to $50 made by any ASU graduate of the last 20 years on Sun Devil Giving Day until the funds are exhausted and reach $10,000.

Students can get involved in Sun Devil Giving Day too, by voting through Sun Devil Rewards on the ASU Mobile App for their favorite cause areas, including ASU Counseling Services, Pitchfork Pantry, the ASU Family Student Crisis Fund and Project Humanities.

Connect with your giving passions

Sun Devil Giving Day encourages supporters to connect with the cause they care about at ASU. Donors will be able to find funds that support these, and other, initiatives at the university:

Get involved

There are many ways to participate in Sun Devil Giving Day:

Top photo courtesy ASU Enterprise Partners

Nicole Rossi

Student writer and editor , ASU Enterprise Partners