In the more than quarter century since Mike De Paola (’94) and his class graduated, they’ve remained close to each other and close to Anderson. “I truly believe we had a great class,” De Paola says. “We were competitive, but not hyper-competitive. We took the team approach, and the camaraderie that happened … I don’t want to sound hokey and say ’magical,’ but we were a really great class. For me, UCLA was a life changer.”
As president of his class’ alumni group, De Paola leads by example, instilling in his classmates the value of giving back to Anderson both in terms of time and dollars. With De Paola leading the charge, the class consistently has a strong presence at their reunions and always steps up to donate. In addition to his role with his graduating class, De Paola has served as a member of Anderson’s alumni board and he serves on the board of the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
“I feel that I have an obligation, especially with homeless causes, to make sure that I do what I can, considering what I have.”
In recognition of his many contributions to UCLA Anderson, its network and community, De Paola is the recipient of the 2020 UCLA Anderson Outstanding Alumni Service Award. This is the highest accolade for exceptional service that the school may bestow upon an alumnus or alumna. The award recognizes outstanding dedication and service that have enriched and strengthened the alumni network as well as the quality and the reputation of the school.
After he graduated, De Paola worked as an equities derivatives sales trader at a variety of firms. He says, “For me, trading was what I enjoyed, because at the end of the day you (knew) how you did. Trading is as entrepreneurial as it gets.” In 2001, he founded MIKEDP LLC, now known as Threshold Worldwide LLC. Based in New York City, Miami Beach and Los Angeles, his businesses include real estate and entertainment investing. But De Paola’s primary focus is now on the world of art, which, if nothing else, just seems cooler than trading equities.
“Now that I’m in the art world, I don’t know if I would call art dealers cool,” De Paola says with a laugh. “The art world is cut-throat, and it’s a lot less regulated than Wall Street. So the art dealers may be cool, but it’s a lot more difficult to be an entrepreneur in the art world, I think, than on Wall Street.”
De Paola says his philanthropy is a product of his upbringing, during which he observed his father’s support of their Catholic church. “I’ve always worked (on) this philanthropic stuff, but it wasn’t until I started making money that I started writing checks as well,” he says. “(Now) I give to the places where I believe it’s necessary to give. I give to a lot of art programs and Coalition for the Homeless. I have beautiful homes in various parts of the country, and there are people out there sleeping on the street. To paraphrase the Talking Heads, ’How is that possible, how did that happen?’ I feel that I have an obligation, especially with homeless (causes), to make sure that I do what I can, considering what I have.”
How does De Paola feel about receiving the Alumni Service Award? “I’m overwhelmed that I was even considered,” he says. “It’s an honor to be recognized. I do whatever I can to help others raise money. It’s of the utmost importance to the school now, especially the way it’s structured. To keep the school good and alive, you have to attract the best students, and I will gladly stand up and serve as an example. (I feel) the school is recognizing a different way of leading, a putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of leadership.”
What They’re Saying about Mike:
Tsan Merritt-Poree Abrahamson (’94, J.D. ’96): Mike is impressive on so many levels, but his kindness and his generosity are among his greatest virtues. This boy from Brooklyn had the Midas touch in the financial markets world, and his success was a foregone conclusion to those of us who sat in class with him. But, honestly, it could not have happened to a nicer, more caring and generous guy. (But) what makes him impressive are not his (financial successes), it’s his heart and his ability to connect with people. This was evident when we were in school, but even today, more than 25 years later, he remains the person whom we all look to to bring us together.
John Long (’94): Mike had a great sense of humor and never took situations and himself too seriously, he was always fun to be around. Mike is a phenomenal ambassador for the school and a great representative for our class. He is really passionate about Anderson and works tirelessly to keep us all connected and involved.
Paula Barksdale (’94): Mike exemplifies the very best of UCLA Anderson. Even as an MBA student, Mike was focused on giving back to the school and was a leader in our class. As he put his education to work, he found great professional success and consistently showed his commitment to Anderson by contributing both his time and his money. He has always held a powerful vision for what Anderson is and can be (and) he has always been a strong booster (for us) in business and philanthropic circles.
Elaine Hagan (’91) Executive Director, Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation: The best way to describe “Mike De P” is as someone who shows up. As an alum, Mike has shown up for the past 25 years in a meaningful way: serving as a member of the board of directors of the UCLA Anderson Alumni Network; as his class president, leading multiple class reunion campaigns; as a board member for the Price Center; and as a host of numerous Anderson events at his home. Mike has mentored students, served as a sounding board for fellow alumni; and engaged with faculty and staff on a number of issues. Anderson is a better place because of Mike De Paola.