Leading the 2017 homecoming festivities will be two grand marshals — an uncommon occurrence at Central Michigan University.
"We have two CMU stars. One is a national business leader and the chairman of the largest CMU fundraising campaign in university history, and the other is a nationally recognized Broadway singer and actress," said Bob Martin, vice president of advancement. "We could not have hoped for two better grand marshals to represent CMU."
Katie Travis has performed throughout the country in musical theater, operetta and opera. She recently concluded her star turn as Christine Daaé in the Northern American Tour of "The Phantom of the Opera." She earned a bachelor's degree in music from CMU in 2010.
Mike O'Donnell was instrumental in organizing the accounting system for oil well firefighter Red Adair's company as it worked to extinguish oil well fires in the Middle East after the Gulf War. Now retired, he serves on CMU's advancement board. He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1970 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in commercial science in 2004.
Meet this unique duo and learn about their time at CMU.
Where in Michigan is home for you?
Katie: I'm from Bay City originally.
Mike: I graduated from Paw Paw High School in 1965.
How did you end up at CMU?
Katie: My mom went to Central. I remember her taking us to CMU to show us where she used to live. I had wanted to move away from Michigan. However, ultimately it was the right thing for me, and being at CMU gave me the opportunity to have a lot of roles in shows, operas and musicals. I think we always find where we are meant to be. My experience coming to Central was so great.
Mike: I don't recall making a campus visit. My parents would have preferred I go to Western since it was right down the road, but I insisted on getting away. U of M and MSU were too big for this small-town boy, so CMU rose to the top of the list. My first visit was when I went to orientation. I loved it.
What was your most memorable class?
Katie: I took a Native American history class. Being at CMU is a very unique experience because you really get a chance to learn about the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Mike: Accounting 101. It changed my whole life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your college self?
Katie: Trust the journey that you're on. You are where you need to be. That has been a huge lesson in my journey that CMU has taught me. Things land how they need to, and it's your choice on how to make the most of it and how to make the most of your education. Try to be present and live in the moment.
Mike: Leave the social life until later in your college career. I started it early and my grades suffered. It was a real struggle to get them back to where an employer would want to talk to me. I got there and was well rewarded for it. It would have been easier if I had the better grades earlier.
Why are you proud to be a CMU Chippewa?
Katie: I'm proud to be a CMU Chippewa because CMU offers incredible opportunities for growth and experience. It allows the freedom to try new things and a space to do that in. I'm proud of the time that I spent there, because I met people who really changed my life.
Mike: I believe that CMU is a well-kept secret. This is a world-class institution with incomparable achievements and recognitions. I am very thankful for the education that was provided me and the business success I had as a result of it. I am always excited to tell stories about CMU's achievements and seem to get an "I didn't know that" response. That's when I give them the "Fire Up Chips!" line. Next time I see them, they invariably remember.