Alumnus Dr. Larry Michel Gives Back

The Steele Endowed Scholarship

Larry Michel and David Steele


“I chose Cal Poly Pomona over USC for my undergraduate degree,” confides alumnus Larry Michel (’76, Zoology). “It was more economical and CPP had such a great reputation for pre-professional programs.”

There were other advantages as well, such as an acceptable commute which allowed Michel time to shadow and volunteer at an orthodontist’s office. “I had braces in high school and ever since that time I wanted to be an orthodontist. I’m still friends with my orthodontist,” he said.

Michel has enjoyed a successful 25-year career as an orthodontist and now teaches and mentors students at USC, where he completed his dental program. He said, “The education I got at CPP really prepared me well for dental school.”

Michel has many fond memories of his time at Cal Poly Pomona. “I remember taking a “pines to palms” trip with Dr. Tim Brown that started in, I think it was Idylwild, and ended in Palm Springs. It was phenomenal.”

“I remember my classes being fun. My lab partner in anatomy was Jim Zorn who went on to become quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.” Zorn was starting quarterback for the team’s first 8 seasons.

Michel recalls, “The instructors were really good but they also cared a lot about the students.” One Professor was particularly important to Michel. It was David Steele from the Department of Biological Sciences. “He really took an interest in students. He was a big part in helping me get into my profession. He was my advisor and helped lead the way.”

Steele was also advisor to the Pre-Med and Pre-Dental clubs. Michel was a member of the Pre-Dental club because he recognized that membership in student clubs helps in professional development.

While Michel was in dental school he liked to return to CPP to play practical jokes on Steele. “I’d sneak into the back of his class and pretend to fall asleep. Sometimes it was too much for him and he’d crack up and laugh out loud,” Michel said.

“I always kept in touch with him. We’d meet at school or go to dinner. He came to my wedding and my kid’s birthday parties. I stayed engaged with the college through him,” Michel added.

“Larry always loved a good prank.” Steele recalls. “In 2008 he invited me to the Distinguished Alumni Dinner. Larry got up in front of the audience and told them, ‘Steele showed up at our wedding & anniversary and the funny thing was, he wasn’t even invited.’ ”

Then Larry Michel announced that he and his wife had set up the David F. Steele Pre-Professional Health Careers Endowed Undergraduate Student Scholarship. “I had no idea,” Steele said. “I guess he wanted it to be a surprise because he knows that I tend to not like attention. They gave me a plaque. I was so out of it, I held the plaque upside down until the photographer pointed it out to me. I’m not used to being the center of attention.”

Steele recalls that “Larry was a great student. He arrived at CPP knowing exactly what he was going to do. He was a man with a plan. We talked about his CPP course sequence but I didn’t have to mentor him much. When it came time to apply to dental school I helped him figure out the where and the why.”

The Steele Endowed Scholarship provides $1000 annually to an undergraduate student who is enrolled in a pre-professional health field such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or kinesiology.

When Michel was asked what motivated him to set up the scholarship, he said, “It’s important to remember the people and institutions that helped us get where we want to go because we can’t get there alone.”

He added, “I’d like to encourage other alumni who benefited from attending CPP to give back. We should be proud of what we’ve done but we need to remember how we got there.”

If you’re interested in exploring ways that you can give back to the College of Science at Cal Poly Pomona please contact Development Director Melissa Martinez by email: or by phone: (909) 869-4160.

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