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Inspiring Young Alumni: Catching up with Mitchell Louis Passarelli ’12

After graduating from St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) in 2012, Mitchell Louis Passarelli completed an undergraduate degree in applied science in engineering science, followed by a master’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Toronto. Since 2020, Passarelli has volunteered as a mentor and judge for Launch Canada’s rocketry competition. He recently completed his PhD in aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in December 2023.

Read on to learn more about this inspiring young alumnus.

SMCS Inspiring Young Alumnus - Mitchell Passarelli in his doctoral gown after completing his PhD.

Please provide a brief update on your professional life.

I recently completed my PhD in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech. My research focuses on combustion in aviation turbine engines, like those used daily on planes.

Please describe your history with St. Mike’s.

I started attending St. Mike’s in Grade 9. When I was applying to high school, I was a little apprehensive about attending an all-boys private school where I wouldn’t know anyone else instead of going to my local public high school with my old friends. I don’t make friends that easily, but I was blown away by the camaraderie and openness of all the other Grade 9 students during that first week camping trip. Two of my close friends now were cabinmates with me on that trip! I wanted to engage with the awesome community and brotherhood at St. Mike’s, so I participated in many co-curricular activities. St. Mike’s gave me many opportunities to express myself and grow alongside others with similar passions, from playing in multiple school bands throughout those four years, to the robotics, archery, Italian, and anime clubs. I will always appreciate the many lessons I learned from my years at St. Mike’s and the friends I made there.

SMCS Inspiring Young Alumnus - Mitchell Passarelli

How have you stayed involved with SMCS since graduating?

Since graduating in 2012, I have tried to stay in touch when possible. During my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was able to attend the yearly musical productions, drop in during Homecoming, and go to the Turkey Roll each year to say hello to and catch up with teachers and friends. On a couple of occasions, I had the honour of being invited by Mr. Heijmans, my Grade 11 and 12 physics teacher, to speak with the junior and senior students about engineering programmes and the application process. It has become more difficult to keep that up since starting my PhD in the U.S., but I make the effort whenever possible.

How would you describe your time at the school?

If I had to pick two words to describe my time at St. Mike’s, I would use nurturing and inspiring. I honestly believe that the years I spent at SMCS helped me choose who I wanted to be and figure out how to achieve my goals. Being surrounded by such brilliant peers and experienced teachers made me want to do my best while I was there and beyond, while the sense of community I felt there is something I cherish to this very day. So many of my closest friends now were young men I met at St. Mike’s, and I look fondly at the time I spent there.

How did SMCS prepare you for and propel you into life?

One of the most unique parts of my experience at St. Mike’s was how the teachers treated all the students with care and respect. I look back now and realize that my teachers taught me in class and by example. From the pragmatic realist perspective of Mr. Narducci and the quick wit of Mr. Stokes to the consummate professionalism of Mr. Pietrkiewicz and the eager inquisitiveness of Mr. Heijmans, my teachers exposed me to so many different ways of looking at the world and conducting myself. The combination of the support from my peers and teachers and the challenges presented in my academics helped me develop a work ethic that I could carry into university and beyond.

SMCS Inspiring Young Alumnus - Mitchell Passarelli in his doctoral gown at his convocation

How do you live out the Basilian motto of Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge?

The Basilian motto has become a part of my everyday life. Sometimes, it is a conscious act to help a friend or colleague in need or to choose to keep working at something when everything seems to be going wrong. I know I am blessed to have had the opportunity to attend St. Mike’s and continue my education to where I am now, and so I enjoy sharing what I have learned with others when I can.

Briefly describe what you are doing now.

Having completed my PhD, my main goal is to get into the propulsion sector of the aerospace industry, whether that involves working on airplane or rocket engines. Eventually, I know I want to get into the concept design side of things.

Would you like to share any future plans?

I find that a lot in the world today focuses on making as much money as possible. I have always had a drive to learn how things work so I can use that knowledge to build new things. One day, my wish is that the things I work on can help someone in the world, directly or indirectly.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice is to learn how to mute the negativity around you so you can focus on yourself and those you care about. In school, that extends to developing a work ethic that will carry you through university and beyond. Cherish your time and friends at St. Mike’s, for the friends you make now will be with you for the rest of your life.

We are excited to feature Mitchell Louis Passarelli as a member of our inspiring young alumni. More inspiring young alumni can be found on the featured wall across from the main office.

Related links:

SMCS Alumni

Inspiring Young Alumni

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