Michael J. Stephan ’84: Bequest Creates His Permanent Legacy

Stephan_lg.jpgMichael Stephan is well-versed in Notre Dame tradition. His grandfather earned a monogram in track at Notre Dame. A generation later, Mike’s uncle graduated from the University. Then came Mike, a 1984 graduate with a degree in business administration who is now vice president-corporate controller for AutoNation, Inc., the largest automotive retailer in the United States.

For Mike, Notre Dame is about legacy: the legacy of his family tradition, the legacy of skills he garnered from the school, and the legacy he plans to leave the school with a bequest in his will for an endowed scholarship fund.

“From early on after I graduated, I always thought that I would leave some portion of what I accumulated to the University; I was that impacted by my experience,” Mike says. “I like the notion that it’s a permanent legacy, something that will continue … and benefit people forever.”

Mike earned majors in accounting and history. In addition to a stellar education, he commends what he calls Notre Dame’s “caring atmosphere.”

“I thought my undergraduate experience was just exceptional … in terms of education of the whole person,” Mike says. He manifests that education with service work, including recent service on the boards of a homeless shelter and his local library foundation, and as chair of the finance committee of his church.

After graduating from Notre Dame, he worked as a CPA for PricewaterhouseCoopers for 13 years, then at Cigna and American Express before joining Fortune 500 company AutoNation in Fort Lauderdale.

Mike attended Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Illinois—and was the commencement speaker at the school’s graduation this spring. In his speech to the graduates, he quoted University President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.: “Lord, give us the ambition to do as much as we can, as well as we can, as long as we can, and the resolve not to despair over things we cannot do.”

It is such inspiration that has led Mike to include Notre Dame in his will. “Clearly it is one of the most prominent Catholic universities in the world,” he says, “and the Catholic character of the University is another reason why I made the decision I did.”