In high school, Michael Pennacchia ’74 endured personal struggles that impeded his academic progress. After graduating, he wasn’t prepared for college, but knew he wanted to further his education.
Fortunately, in 1971, he found a solution at what then was Rhode Island Junior College. Pennacchia received his associate degree in Liberal Arts and said his experience showed him that he could excel.
“It was great. For the first time, I was able to choose what I wanted to learn,” said Pennacchia. “It taught me independence, responsibility and accountability and imparted a thirst for education. I was like a kid in a candy store with all the options for learning. CCRI gave me the foundation and confidence I needed to move forward and further my education.”
While at the college, Pennacchia’s biggest challenge was choosing his degree because he was interested in everything. “In my mind’s eye, I can still see and remember many of the professors I had, and how interesting it was – how I was being introduced to new subjects, and absorbing it all like a sponge.”
As an alumnus, Pennacchia understands how important it is for others to have the same opportunity he did to learn and excel. To help others like himself, he makes an annual gift to CCRI.
“I believe it’s important to pay it forward and give back to CCRI because they gave so much to me – accepted me and taught me how to excel to move forward and further my education,” said Pennacchia. “They provided me with a strong foundation upon which to develop a successful life and career.”
Pennacchia realizes the importance of giving back to CCRI and the impact it has on students. He knows his giving helps support student initiatives, develop new programs, update equipment, provide financial help to those in need and reward those who are deserving with merit scholarships.
“I give because I want others to be able to enjoy the benefits that I’ve received,” he said. “I know how valuable those are and what can result from planting the seeds of a good education. And how those who might otherwise not be able to afford it can be empowered and lifted to be the best they can be so they can go out and offer their unique contributions to make the world a better place.”
He encourages others to give, too, saying it not only will help students, but make donors feel good about contributing to a worthy cause, regardless of how much they are able to contribute. “Anything helps,” said Pennacchia.
Pennacchia’s passion for learning and his diverse interests remained strong throughout his life and career. He graduated from Rhode Island College in 1977 and settled in New York City, where he launched a freelance career writing and photographing for The New York Times, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, People and many others. Pennacchia credits his early studies in creative writing at CCRI with the late Marienna Pape and Charles Sullivan for inspiring his freelance writing career.
He later studied creative writing at New York University and The New School; photography and design at the School of Visual Arts; and was a candidate in the Master of Divinity degree program at Harvard Divinity School.
His career led him from freelance to an executive position at a New York City public relations agency to a position at Columbia University teaching in a strategic communications master’s program to starting his own media relations business and finally becoming a master gardener and launching a garden design business.
Join Pennacchia and make a gift to help support CCRI students today: ccri.edu/giving
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