Sunday, April 15, 2007

Michael Reiff

Michael Reiff:
What It Means to be Alive

By: Joseph W. Norman

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...Michael Reiff...below! Thanks for your readership!

Michael Reiff is currently a student at SUNY Geneseo studying English and Secondary Education. He is a gifted writer and journalist with a keen eye for a high quality film. These passions have moved him to his current role as the Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Lamron, SUNY Geneseo's well respected school newspaper, a position he states fosters his creativity.

Michael is known for his relaxed demeanor, optimism, and leadership abilities. With a strong desire for productivity and a wide variety of interests, Michael is consistently trying to make the most out of his life. Although his influence on the world is just beginning, Michael carries a distinct sense of professionalism, candor, and finesse. He lives by a simple rule, “Be honest, be forward, and be a little vulnerable,” and he speaks with knowledge beyond his years, of what it means to be alive.

Michael grew up in Fredonia, New York, under the loving care of his parents. His father, a former SUNY Fredonia Art History professor and his mother, a librarian, helped Michael develop a passion for education and the arts. In fact, he declares that the best gift he has ever received is the way his parents raised him. “Without that, I would not be who I am,” he states. “There was so much positive energy in my household.” When asked about his influences, they were near the top of the list.

Other influence has come for Michael from a variety of personas; his older brother Nick, stories of his grandfather, and more recently, one of his favorite professors, Dr. Carlos Filice.

Nick is six years older than Michael and was a role model when Michael was going through the “harder years of high school.” He states of the experience, “I’m red haired, like comic books, and don’t do sports. I might as well have had a bull’s eye on me.” Reflecting on some of his experiences he said, “There were a lot of situations where I said, ‘What would Nick do?’” Nick currently lives in Chicago selling real estate, freelance writing, and traveling the world. Michael and Nick speak regularly and frequently take trips together, most recently to Baltimore, Maryland.

Nick and Mike enjoying some food

The story of Michael’s grandfather is one of inspiration to all, but especially Michael, as he has recently been researching the man more thoroughly for a school project. Henry Reiff was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899. At age fourteen he was pulled out of school by his parents to help the family get by, although he had a strong desire for an education. He read Shakespeare on the train to and from work and was miraculously allowed to attend a boy’s school for fifteen and sixteen year olds at age nineteen. His boss at the time not only encouraged him, but helped fund the education. Michael reflects, “The Reiff’s have a lot to thank for that one man.”

After boy’s school, Henry attended prep school, and then attended Harvard University. Reiff would later help draft the United Nations Charter before teaching for the rest of his life at St. Lawrence University. Michael tries to model that passion and not let obstacles bring him down or get in the way of what he wants to accomplish.

The most recent influence has been Dr. Carlos Filice, Chair of the Philosophy Department at SUNY Geneseo. Michael finds much inspiration by analyzing peoples’ demeanors and Filice’s is no exception. He is incredibly relaxing to talk to and work with because of his love of life and humanity. In addition, the professor’s positive attitude and smile add a few more elements to an already accessible individual. Approachability is something Michael puts much value in and models in his work with The Lamron and Team VIP. “You have to be approachable,” Michael says. “People need to be able to talk to you about their problems.”

To Michael, another essential attribute of a good leader is forgiveness, as he states, “You cannot hold a grudge against anybody.” Respect and cordialness are also high on Michael’s list as he states, “If you talk to somebody like they want to be talked to, they will help you out.” He believes in giving compliments and if there is a problem, mentioning it, but maybe letting it slide because it might be a one time thing. Also, he stresses dealing with people one on one because people will respect you for that and follow you. The last important leadership concept is to know your stuff. “That is huge,” Michael says. “You owe it to yourself and the people you are leading to know your stuff; it is your responsibility to do that.”

Things that irk Michael reflect his personality and way of living. One of the foremost is negativity. He has a unique character trait of absorbing everything which makes him very susceptible to the energy people let off. “Often people do not realize they are being negative,” he states. In turn, he stresses the importance of personal analysis. He believes it is essential to analyze who you are, what you are doing, and why. “When doing so, you will realize when you are negative and the effect it has on people.”

Another area of concern for Michael is some peoples’ inability to change when they know they have to. “You have to be humble enough to change course sometimes,” he states. He is also troubled by people that have the opportunity and ability to help someone or make a difference and they do not. “It is a decision one makes when the opportunity presents itself,” Michael states. This further attests to Michael’s belief in personal analysis.

Film is a source of much joy for Michael. He finds the medium to be a form of literature that will one day be more respected for what it can offer. It provides a combination of visual and literary art that cannot be found in just reading a book. Michael wants to use his life to create awareness about the study of film, hence his desire to become a Film Studies professor at a college. “There are films that are as good as a Dostoyevsky book,” he states. “I have not found many of them, but I have found a few that have inspired me to believe that this is really art.” This passion, tied in with Michael’s love of travel, may lead him overseas after graduation to teach at a Chinese University, something his brother had the opportunity to do a few years ago.

Michael in Amsterdam

There is less work in viewing a movie, which Michael says is unfortunate, because there is a sense of accomplishment involved with working for the story. He states, “That is why reading is so much fun, because when you look at a book you just read, it is rewarding.” Some favorite films include Children of Men, The Door in the Floor – a little known Jeff Bridges movie, Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, and The Lives of Others – a German movie about society just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Literature by Bill Bryson, Alan Moore, and the late Kurt Vonnegut are all musts for Michael.

Food is pertinent to Michael, not only because it keeps him going, but because it keeps him cultured. He enjoys cooking and has recently been trying to perfect steak tacos and falafels from scratch. Mexican, Indian, and Thai food are on the top of his list, but he will never pass up a good American burger. He recommends the burger at Geneseo Family Restaurant, a $2.35 beauty with all the fixings. “One of the best I have ever had,” he states.

Now, it is important to discuss the little things that make up Michael. He likes to get about eight hours of sleep a night, but he also likes to stay up late because, he states, “Usually better things happen.” He loves to read magazines, Esquire being a personal favorite publication. Sorbets are a fixture atop his favorite dessert list. Although he is not a sports guy, he enjoys running, pushups, and sit-ups. He has also recently acquired a taste for watching football, especially the Buffalo Bills, after his family’s recent move to the “All America City.”

Michael’s definition of success is to do what you want to do. He says, “Figure out what you like to do and figure out how it can work for you by building a career around it.” Furthermore, he states, “It does not have to do with money or property, but rather to be able to wake up and say, I am doing what I like.” For Michael, if he was able to wake up and say, “I am going to go talk about movies,” that would be success. He reflects, “It is important to find a way to fit your interests into your daily life.” This approach will no doubt lead to a fulfilling life.

Much of Michael’s life is driven by his love for meeting new people. “I like meeting people period,” he states. “I think everybody has something special going on, and I learn new things from people all the time.”

Michael’s youthful vigor, candid leadership style, and positive attitude have laid the foundation for success. He whole heartedly believes in the quote, “Nothing without effort,” and uses that motivation to constantly be productive. “Always have a ‘Plan B’ for when things do not work out,” he states. “There should never be wasted time, because there is always something to think about or do.” It seems that Michael, through his efforts and beliefs, has proven that he has a good grip on what it means to be alive.

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Michael Reiff
SUNY Geneseo ‘08
English / Secondary Education
The Lamron: Arts & Entertainment Editor
Team VIP

The Lamron: Arts & Entertainment Page:

A Classic Michael Reiff Piece: Lou Bega

For more information on Henry Reiff (Mike's Grandfather):

Oral History Interview with Dr. Henry Reiff:

Papers by Dr. Henry Reiff:

Profiles Authored: