Michael Wong ’05: Hoping For The Best

An alumnus's faith leads him to help those in need.

Michael Wong ’05 stands in front of a plaque at the Long Center recognizing his contributions to Scranton Athletics at a men’s basketball game in Feb. 2020.
Michael Wong ’05 stands in front of a plaque at the Long Center recognizing his contributions to Scranton Athletics at a men’s basketball game in Feb. 2020.

On Oct. 5, 1995, Pope John Paul II celebrated a televised Mass at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a crowd of more than 80,000 people who likely went on to treasure the experience for the rest of their days. At the same time, in nearby Iselin, New Jersey, the young Michael Wong ’05 tuned in to the broadcast and bore witness to an experience that would forever change his spiritual life.

“I had no idea who the pope was,” he said. “I had no idea what the Catholic faith was, (but) what I saw was so beautiful. I wondered what the Catholic religion was.”

While Wong had been raised in the Presbyterian faith for much of his childhood, his curiosity about Catholicism soon led him to attend St. Mary Diocesan High School, where his budding faith began to bloom.

“My first year, my first Mass … I loved it,” Wong said. “It was beautiful. It felt like there was so much presence there.”

Wong soon began expressing his interest in developing his understanding of Catholicism with the priests and nuns who taught at his school. When the time came to research college options, he was intent on studying at a Catholic institution. After narrowing his choices down to St. Joseph’s University or Scranton, Wong chose to study enterprise management tech at the University’s Kania School of Management (KSOM).

“That was one of the things the other schools did not offer,” Wong said of the enterprise management tech program, which has since evolved into business administration. “I (could) actually learn how to do systems management.”

Growing Spiritually

At Scranton, Wong quickly became involved with campus life, participating in the Multi-Cultural Club, the intramural ultimate frisbee, basketball and volleyball teams and Campus Ministries, where then-Director Joe Curran helped him through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which resulted in Wong’s confirmation in the Catholic faith. He also formed a spiritual bond with the Rev. G. Donald Pantle, S.J., who lived with Wong at the University’s Fayette House, which was then designated as a residence for students interested in learning Spanish.

“It was so inspiring to talk to him when I was struggling,” he said of Pantle, who passed away in 2017.

After graduation, Wong began working through an employment agency and eventually landed a job at an IT solutions company, where his systems management experience proved useful. After working there for about a year, the company’s ownership changed hands, and Wong once again found himself looking for work. The employment agency placed him at Intertek, a multinational inspections company, and Wong began inspecting shipments, factories, warehouses and facilities for Intertek’s clients. The company hired him outright after his temporary term had expired, and Wong soon worked his way up to his current position of inspections supervisor.

“To grow spiritually is what my ultimate goal is.”

As an inspections supervisor, Wong oversees quality control and function tests for major retailers in the United States and Canada. When COVID-19 hit last year, Wong and his team adapted to its challenges by performing virtual inspections.

“We do what we can to help whoever is in need,” he said of Intertek and its clients.

When Wong first began working in the professional arena, he still attended church regularly but felt as if the demands of his work life were negatively affecting his spiritual growth. Looking to re-connect with his Ignatian spirituality, he began visiting the Loyola Jesuit Center in Morristown, New Jersey, and attended a retreat for Scranton alumni conducted by the Rev. Brendan Lally, S.J. ’70, former campus minister and rector at the University, at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth at Wernersville.

“I realized this was what I was looking for, this is what I want my life to be,” he said. “To grow spiritually is what my ultimate goal is.”

Strengthening Ties

And, since graduating, Wong has only strengthened his ties to the Scranton community, often attending regional alumni functions and returning to campus to watch men’s and women’s basketball games.

“It’s very touching to be with other people who came from the University,” he said. “Everybody has something in common.

“Scranton was always good at keeping everybody together.”

And, as a true man for and with others, Wong has donated generously to Scranton causes in the years since his matriculation, supporting the Royal Scholarship Fund, the Scranton Athletics Fund, the President’s Business Council, the Father Sweeney Family Outreach Fund (which provides emergency financial aid to Scranton students experiencing unexpected financial hardships), the Royal Fund and KSOM.

“You do what your heart desires and you fulfill what your means allow."

“Scranton was very generous in the scholarship they gave me,” Wong said. “I figured, ‘Hey, if I can get it, I would love to give it back so that someone else can (also) get it.’

“God gives us a will … part of my will is my generosity and my philanthropy. That’s what I’ve been called to do.” 

Although Wong can’t recall the specific inspiration behind his first gift to Scranton, he chuckled while recalling the circumstances behind the recent gift he donated to the University’s John J. Long, S.J. Center and the Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. Athletics Campus, a set of custom banners recognizing the University’s various athletic accomplishments. According to Wong, after he expressed an interest in making the donation to the Long Center, University Director of Athletics Dave Martin joked that they would rename it, for one night only, as “The Wong Center.” 

“They were going to change … just that one letter, from the ‘L’ to the ‘W,’” Wong laughed.

martin-and-wong.jpegWhile that didn’t quite come to pass, the University did officially honor Wong by permanently installing a plaque at the Long Center recognizing his contributions to Scranton Athletics at a men’s basketball game in Feb. 2020. When asked how he would encourage his fellow alumni to support their alma mater philanthropically, Wong’s advice was simple and direct.

“You do what your heart desires and you fulfill what your means allow,” he said.

Wong remains hopeful that he will soon be able to cheer on the Royals and Lady Royals with his fellow alumni at future games once it is safe for the University to hold large gatherings again. 

“We live day-by-day with the pandemic and hope for the best,” he said.

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