From traveling on the road while getting her education to sitting behind the desk at a regular 9 to 5 job, Michelle Mack has had quite the life. At age 42 not only is she president of the York College Alumni Association but she also spends her time singing as a member of the gospel group, James Hall Worship and Praise.
“In the beginning things were difficult. But I have been busy for over 20 plus years. It becomes second nature at some point,” said Mack.
Mack grew up and still resides in St. Albans Queens. As the eldest girl of 4 children she described her childhood growing up with her siblings as “normal but different from today’s social community.” Mack continued “We played in the streets and in our yards without worry because I had loving grandparents who supported me in the arts and education.”
Mack said her family has always been incredibly close and just recently she suffered the loss of one of her sisters who died on Mar. 1 from cancer. Mack is dealing with the loss and said “some days are better than others.”
The family’s closeness Mack credited to a “southern attribute” that she said came from her mother and grandparents having been from Charleston South Carolina.”
Hospitality and kindness is the southern way,”said Mack. ” I saw this in my mom and grandmother.”
Mack expressed her creativity at an early age and while she said dancing was her first passion singing came naturally and she credited her choir director with allowing her to find her voice.
“I was around seven years old and she gave me a song to take home and learn. Her simple instructions were, “Do exactly what you hear”. I did, and there came out a voice I didn’t know was there,” said Mack. She said her parents encouraged her singing as well as her education.
While Mack attended LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts She learned about different genres and styles of music including jazz, opera even a Broadway style of music.”My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls and the list goes on and on,” said Mack.
Though she is a gospel singer Mack said she loved Broadway and opera music and even used opera for vocal warm ups. “I love Opera due to my Grandfather introducing it to me growing up watching Masterpiece Theatre on PBS,” said Mack. “Opera music is the most vocally complex music to sing, yet it provides great vocal warm ups without straining the vocal chords.
Mack had been traveling across the country singing gospel since she was in high school giving her plenty of practice at balancing and often hectic life. At the time traveled with the Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir.
“We would plan to leave on Friday via the bus and most times I returned Monday morning and went straight to school. So I would pack my books with me and study and do what I had to do,” said Mack. “There are times we would start out Friday night in DC, Saturday in Ohio, Saturday night in the Carolina’s and Sunday we’re in Jersey.”
Mack’s balancing act continued when she came to York College in 2005 as a student majoring in Business Administration with a minor in English. Like many students she worked and attended classes. However she had a slight advantage as she was already working in marketing as the Marketing Manager at Davis Warshow Kitchen and Bathroom Distribution.
“My educational path was long and hard. I was a full time employee and a full time evening and Saturday student,” said Mack. She graduated in 2011 and said “For me, the degree was something I owed to myself as well as my grandmother and forefathers. As well as for those who marched, bleed and died for the liberty of life and the quality of that I currently enjoy. I believe that sediment tends to get lost with this generation.”
Overall Mack said attending York was a great experience and that she was fortunate enough to have great professors who have become like her mentors. “In this day and age, you need to establish relationships for every stage in your life,” said Mack.
Even with school and work Mack never gave up singing and in 2011 Mack traveled to Italy on a gospel tour. “We would sing late nights and travel and sleep during the day. I forewent sleep so I can video and take as many pictures humanly possible,” said Mack. “Italy is just one of those dream gigs!”
Mack insisted that the qualities she developed through singing have helped her in her job as President of the Alumni Association.”Singing is creative and spiritual and has the ability to engage people from all backgrounds and social and economic classes. As a business professional, I have to maintain that understanding and operate business with a cultural diversity scope and engage with people from various backgrounds,” said Mack. ” So my creative and the business mind can work hand in hand.”
Mack began her term as president in June 2014 after serving as a board member then vice president. “It offers an opportunity to give back and that’s really at the heart of who I am,” said Mack. “I live in the community and as a graduate of York it was natural for me to come back and see how can I contribute to the institution.”
As part of her job and together with the association’s board members Mack said she tries to and mountain a relationship between the college and it’s 22,000 alums .
“It’s our responsibility to stay in contact with them as well as stay engaged with the institution that being President Kiezs’ office as well as faculty and students to see what are the concerns and how is the institution is governing itself and how it’s being branded, “said Mack. “I find the it to be an honor and very humbling.”
As the newly appointed president Mack said she hoped to strengthen relationships in various departments in the college and with students as well. “I hope we can engage students more and help light a fire for the love of York College and why we are known as the Beacon On the Hill,”.said Mack.
Between her time spent singing and traveling and her job as association president it may seem like Michelle is leading a double life She said it’s not so much a double life as full and whole one. “P. Diddy, Warren Buffet and Beyoncé all have the same thing the average person has – 24 hours. God gives everyone 24 hours a day, so it’s how we maximize the time we have on this planet,” said Mack. “I hope to leave this world empty knowing I used all my time to the best of my ability.”
While Mack may not be traveling as much as she used to she did mention that her group James Hall Worship and Praise has been recording a new CD.