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University Finance and Administration

FLT Profile: J. Michael Gower

Get to know University Finance and Administration’s (UFA’s) Financial Leadership Team (FLT) through our FLT Profile series. Featuring Q&As with each FLT member, the series paints a portrait of who our leaders are—outside of the office.

UFA’s FLT is comprised of 12 individuals: Adam Day, J. Michael Gower, John Fahey, Jason MacDonald, David B. Moore, Nimish Patel, Ruth Philo, Stephanie K. Reed, José M. Román, Eugene Simon, William Troy, and Kim Yozgat.

This profile features J. Michael Gower, executive vice president - chief financial officer & university treasurer

Tell us about your first job.

J. Michael Gower
J. Michael Gower, executive vice president - chief financial officer and university treasurer

"Assuming we’re not talking about the typical high school/college jobs (there are some good stories there), my first job was running a complex of residence halls at Duke University in 1982. I was responsible for coordinating the housekeeping, maintenance, and general upkeep of about 10 dormitories — that meant helping out with student issues, cleaning up after raucous weekends, and figuring out where we could make improvements within the budget we had. I was not in that role very long — a business manager

position for Housing and other auxiliary units opened up within 6 months, and I was moved into that slot, but this is how I got hooked into higher education administration."

Do you have a favorite object in your office?

"A lot of the objects are meaningful for different reasons. I have a few awards from professional associations, and I am proud of these. I have a collection of rocks that I picked up from some beautiful places like Kauai, South Wales, and Puglia in Italy — memorable family trips. Probably my favorite object is a carved representation of an Orca or Killer Whale. That was from a family trip to Washington State and British Columbia (BC), where I fell in love with the native-American representations of animals and animal spirits. While on a ferry to Victoria, BC, we went by a pod of killer whales, and I became fascinated by them and their respective images in artwork, and the carved object is reminiscent of those images."

Have you been mentored or do you mentor, and what is that experience like?

"I have had a lot of mentors over my career, some of whom are no longer with us. These relationships were critical to me at key stages of my path. I have been an informal mentor quite a few times, but I have been an 'official' one in both NACUBO’s program (once) and EACUBO’s (now twice). These have been wonderful experiences; in each, my mentee and I established our respective ground rules for engagement, and that 'structure' has helped quite a lot. I visited each mentee’s campus, met their supervisors, direct reports, and other key officials, and learned about their 'now' issues, as well as their career aspirations. We met every 4-6 weeks; I maintain that schedule with my previous mentees to this day and Zoom made that doable during COVID. I am fortunate to have just been 'paired' with a new mentee in EACUBO’s next cohort, and we will meet to begin that journey at the end of March. I can categorically say that I have gotten as much or more out of these conversations as my mentees have."

Is there a TV show you’re mid-binge on?

"Yes, it is The Gilded Age on HBO.  I was a BIG fan of Downton Abbey, seeing every episode at least once, as well as the movie.  When I learned that Downton Abbey’s creator, Julian Fellowes, was starting a new series based on New York City in the 1880's, I was in. I love historical fictions, and I like to pay attention to the representations of the times. One of the prime locations of The Gilded Age is 5th Avenue and E 61st Street — this is an area I have often walked around, and it is fascinating to imagine that area and the adjacent Central Park as it would have been at that time. The story itself is not as interesting (yet!) to me as Downton, but I’m in it to the end!"

How do you unplug?

"One way is by binging shows!  Another is through exercise — running, riding my bike, riding my Peloton, etc. I am 'training' right now for two half marathon races, one in Brooklyn/Manhattan on March 20, and another in Brooklyn in May. Another way to unplug is through word puzzles — crosswords and other word games. I use these at the end of the day to unwind my brain."

Tell us about your pet(s).

"I have a wonderful dog named Zoe.  When we got her in 2008, she was supposed to be a purebred Springer Spaniel (as was her mother); however, as she grew, it was clear that there was another breed involved here! We had lost a wonderful springer spaniel the year before, and they can be an excitable breed, but whatever was the other part mixing into Zoe made her a very mellow dog.  Of all my dogs, she was the best running companion. We would be out in early mornings, often trudging through ice or snow (we were in Vermont at the time), and she just loved running! When we moved to New York, she and I were regulars for morning runs in Riverside Park, where she would occasionally detour to terrorize nearby squirrels. It was a sad day when I realized she was of an age where she had to retire from those runs, and now she comfortably spends most of every day sleeping on a couch, often the one behind me during Zoom calls from my home office. She’s almost 14 and prone to snoring, but she still is a wonderful companion at the end of a long day."