When asked why he endowed a scholarship to Penn Charter, Michael Concordia OPC ’80 had a story to tell, a story of twists and turns, luck and grit, a story that changed his life and remains embedded in his memory.
Even today, 39 years after he graduated from Penn Charter, Concordia can easily rattle off the names of the teachers and coaches included in his story. Bob Levy, who ran the Little Quakers football team, an outreach for boys outside the usual orbit of Penn Charter. Hank Resch, an English teacher who also coached lacrosse. Joe Perrott, Bob and Penny Fox, Hench Murray and Ed Zubrow... Concordia remembers them all, not only because of the roles they played as coaches and teachers, but because they were so important to his life.
“They try to shape you and steer you in the right direction,” Concordia said in a telephone interview from his home in Denver. Concordia grew up in Upper Darby as the son of a widowed mother. His father died when he was four. Money was scarce, and the arc of his life seemed predetermined: He would grow up to be a carpenter or plumber or another type of tradesman, just like the boys on his street and many classmates at Drexel Hill Junior High.
Then fate intervened. He tried out for and made the Little Quakers football team. In turn, that gave him the awareness to apply to Penn Charter. He got in! That led to him meeting Bob and Penny Fox, and becoming a James Fox scholar, benefiting from a memorial fund the Foxes established in memory of their son. He took public transit to school in his first year, a trip that involved three buses and took 90 minutes one way. The next year, he scraped together $110 to buy an old Ford Fairlane with bald tires and duct tape covering holes in the chassis. It did the job, except when the weather was bad. Then, his classmates would warn him: “Hey, Concordia, it rained last night and you have to re-tape your car.”
He played football at Penn Charter. “Defensive end and offensive guard,” he recalled. “They played both ways in those days.” But, the school—then all boys—was small, and students were encouraged to engage in other activities and sports. “Hank may have handed me a [lacrosse] stick and said, ‘this is what you are going to do in the spring,’” Concordia said.
He excelled, and playing lacrosse at Penn Charter helped him get into Bucknell University and win a spot on a Division I team. Today, Concordia is a partner in a home medical equipment company. His wife, Liz, who is a graduate of the Baldwin School, is CEO of the University of Colorado Health Center.
“We have been fortunate in life and have the great opportunity to give back a little bit,” Concordia said of their gift. The Concordias’ scholarship will support a boy or girl from a single-parent household who, ideally, would have an interest in playing football or lacrosse.