Mike Harring, ’72 LAS, believes in the transformative power of higher education. He’s very convincing on the subject, having been through a few major changes himself.
A distinguished law career has taken him from the Securities Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., to private practice in Chicago, to a long and happy tenure at Deere & Company, the agricultural equipment manufacturing powerhouse based in Moline, Ill.
A classical music lover, Harring accepted an invitation to become interim executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Davenport, Iowa, for what turned out to be an eight-month term after he retired from Deere in 2017. He also joined the board of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, which he now chairs.
“I worked for the government. I worked in private practice. I worked in the corporate sector and I worked in the nonprofit sector,” notes Harring. “That’s the executive summary of my professional career.”
But for Harring, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now lives near Wrigley Field with his wife, Lois Dal Santo, ’73 LAS, the most profound transformation of his life occurred at Illinois. As a freshman political science major, he says that he “spent too much time on sports and not enough on my studies,” playing intramural basketball, softball, football and even water polo. For one memorable year, Harring lived in a certified-housing student residence known as “the White House.” He next went to law school at Loyola University Chicago to realize his lifelong dream of practicing law.
“For some students, college is a transitional experience,” he says. “High school, then college, then real life. But for me, the University of Illinois was transformational. I developed confidence, discipline and perseverance. I wasn’t the same person when I graduated. Part of that was due to the influence of my friends from the White House, in addition to my teachers and mentors. Perhaps most importantly, I met the love of my life at U of I. We’ve now been married for 47 years, and we have two great children.”
A longtime supporter of the University—and faithful Illini fan—Harring believes that the UIAA not only provides alumni with critical connections to Illinois, but also promotes the great things that the University is achieving for the state, the nation and the world. “The Alumni Association’s mission is to inspire lifelong loyalty and pride among alumni by strengthening their relationship to the University and to educate the public about the U of I and its graduates,” he says. “We want all alumni to feel welcomed by and connected to the University for life.”