Bill French Alumni Service Award to Michael S. J. “Mike” Albano
As a well-respected family law attorney, UMKC alumnus Michael S. J. “Mike” Albano is a tireless advocate for his clients at his Independence, Mo. law firm, Welch, Martin & Albano. But Albano has another passion, equally as strong: For decades he has been an unapologetic, avid Roo supporter.
Indeed, Albano (B.A. ’65, J.D. ’68), recipient of the 2014 Bill French Alumni Service Award for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has chalked up numerous legal and professional accolades. But his die-hard support of UMKC that started as a student and continues to this day is a deeply important part of his life as well.
Albano’s commitment to UMKC sports is legendary. In 2004, he founded the UMKC Pep Club, a group of alumni with a zealous love of Roo athletics, especially basketball. He is a fixture in the fan stands at Roo athletic events and he has been an enthusiastic advocate for UMKC in the community for more than 45 years. He is a former president of the Alumni Association Governing Board and former chairman of the University of Missouri System Alumni Alliance. He has served as a volunteer for everything from the Homecoming Committee to the UMKC Law School Alumni Association.
Albano said his “undying love for the university, its faculty and administrative staff” keeps him returning year after year to volunteer hours of his time.
“How can I not do so?” Albano asked. “The university kept every one of the promises made to me when I was recruited to attend.”
And he feels an allegiance to a famous Missourian, as well. In 1961, Albano was a high school graduate from Brooklyn, N.Y. preparing to enter college. On a train bound for Kansas City, he and two friends, all on tight budgets, met former President Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess. The Trumans were kind to Albano and his friends, buying them dinner and regaling them with stories about Kansas City and the university. Albano never forgot the generosity of the Trumans, and he has felt a call to service ever since.
Albano’s advocacy for UMKC earned him the 2003 University of Missouri System Presidential Citation for Alumni Service, the system’s top honor for alumni dedication and service, and the Best Friend Award from the UMKC School of Law in 2006.
In addition to his university volunteer awards, he has received numerous professional awards, including the Missouri Bar Association President’s Award, multiple Family Lawyer of the Year awards and the Missouri Bar Association’s Family Law Practitioner of the Year award.
The recognition is gratifying for Albano, who originally hadn’t even planned on being a lawyer.
“I never thought that I would be doing what I am now,” he said. “I always thought that I would be a high school history teacher. Some very sage advice from (then-UKC) Dean of Students Wheadon Bloch steered me to law school.”
Dean Bloch also impressed upon Albano that he shouldn’t rest on his laurels. “He never hesitated to tell me that in spite of the good work I was doing as a student and volunteer, I still could do better,” Albano said.
Even today, Albano said, he feels that “it is never too late to be the very best you can be.” Outside of his work with UMKC, he also volunteers with his church and with other community organizations. Albano met his wife, Grace, when both were UKC students. Now active alumni, they are known on campus for giving back.
And he has advice for the Roos following in his footsteps: “Get active in the university from the very first day on campus. Never for a moment will you ever regret doing so.”
Albano certainly doesn’t.
Albano’s award, and those of the other alumni honorees, one from each school and the five university-wide awards of distinction, will be presented April 24 at the 2014 Alumni Awards luncheon.