PEOPLE: MICHAEL MARSICANO

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Michael Marsicano grew up in Saint James, New York, a historic little town on the North Shore of Long Island. He came to North Carolina as a college freshman to attend Duke University and just never left.

While at Duke, he began dating his future wife, Leslie, during his senior year. "She was Nanette in the musical No, No Nanette and I was in the orchestra - I played a mean oboe," he says. After graduating with a  B.S. in Psychology, he earned two more degrees from Duke: Masters of Education and a Ph.D.

He ran the Durham Arts Council for six years before coming to Charlotte in 1989 to head the Arts & Science Council. In 1999 he became President and CEO of Foundation For The Carolinas, the 8th largest community foundation in America. It has $2.3 billion and oversees 2,500 charitable funds established by individual philanthropists, corporations, and nonprofit institutions. 

In 2017, Michael was named by Charlotte magazine as No. 1 on its list of Charlotte's 50 Most Powerful People. He serves on Duke University's Board of Trustees and has received numerous national, regional and local awards. 

True to his reputation for being humble and kind, Michael was generous enough to answer The O Report's questions about everything from his favorite book to his vision for the future. 

What are your wardrobe staples?

At work, I am a suit and tie kind of guy. Otherwise I wear shorts and a polo shirt earlier and later than weather really permits.

Where are your favorite places to buy clothes?

Over the years, Paul Simon, but only when the sales sign goes up.

Who are your male style role models?

President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Both men have impeccably tailored and timeless styles. They wear their suits, their suits don't wear them.

Any favorite grooming products or grooming tips?

I never really embraced the facial hair trend. Clean shaven with polished shoes is my style.

How do you stay in shape?

I exercise in the mornings before work on an elliptical machine at home. However, I am still chasing the loss of ten pounds that most of us keep chasing.

What are your favorite charitable causes?

My wife and I enjoy giving to multiple arts organizations, our church, and selected educational and human service causes. We earned five degrees from Duke University between us so Duke is a high priority on our philanthropic list.

What do you like to do in your downtime?

There is nowhere on the planet I don’t want to visit as I love to travel; also, reading and gardening.

What do you love about this stage of your life?

With college payments for three sons now complete, we are empty nesters recapturing spontaneity.

Any timesaving tips you want to share?

Count me as the worst time manager you’ve profiled. It is my Achilles heel.

What are your favorite restaurants?

In Charlotte, the good food and elegance of Barrington's and the family feel of Dolce. Recently I have taken to Aqua e Vino. Once you walk through the doors you feel like you have stepped back to an old world Italian neighborhood. In Asheville, the unique tastes of Cúrate - call weeks ahead for reservations!

Where are your favorite places for a getaway?

We own a home in Asheville with another couple. With its stunning views, I call it Heaven and it is where I am most at peace. We also enjoy the beaches at Kiawah Island and Emerald Isle.

What was your childhood dream profession?

The goal was to be a doctor. I thought I would earn a medical degree and ended up with a research doctoral degree. It wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind but they grew to appreciate a different path.

What was your first car?

A very old but well-kept Oldsmobile. I bought it in my senior year of college.

Who are your favorite writers or filmmakers?

Steven Spielberg is my favorite filmmaker. I have too many favorite authors to select just one. However, my recently discovered favorite author is Anthony Doerr who wrote a beautifully penned book, All The Light We Cannot See. I highly recommend it.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Because he captured the imagination of and curiosity in my children and ignited their lifelong love of reading, it would have to be Harry Potter.

 Michael and his wife, Leslie, at a Mint Museum fundraiser in 2017. The couple met as students at Duke University when she was the lead in a musical and he played in the orchestra. 

Michael and his wife, Leslie, at a Mint Museum fundraiser in 2017. The couple met as students at Duke University when she was the lead in a musical and he played in the orchestra. 

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Convincing my wife to marry me and raising three terrific boys.

What is your motto?

Two mottos: Ask for forgiveness and not permission; and don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. The latter motto is challenging for a self-proclaimed perfectionist.

What is your vision for the future?

I believe in the collective wisdom of citizens to build a better future together. Recently our collective purpose has given way to a divisive individualism. Setting tables for collaboration and generosity towards one another is my professional purpose.

What is the best business advice you have received?

Two related pieces of advice on being successful in Charlotte from two sources: Cyndee Patterson, who admonished me to gain influence by being so competent no one could ignore me, and Rolfe Neill, who convinced me that I should view myself as equal to other leaders in the civic life of Charlotte even if I was not their financial, social, or political peer - and to start acting like it!

What did you learn from your father or grandfather that still influences you today?

My father would give the shirt of his back to anyone who needed it. The roots of my career in philanthropy begin with him.

What's your favorite healthy snack?

I eat a lot of fruit.

What's your favorite splurge snack?

 All things chocolate.

What's in your glass during Happy Hour?

A robust and full-bodied glass of red wine.