The magic of life in the eyes of Michael Gershe

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The magic of life in the eyes of Michael Gershe

Michael Gershe, 1992 graduate of Ashland University.

Michael Gershe, 1992 graduate of Ashland University.

Submitted by Michael Gershe

Michael Gershe, 1992 graduate of Ashland University.

Submitted by Michael Gershe

Submitted by Michael Gershe

Michael Gershe, 1992 graduate of Ashland University.

Zach Read, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE COLLEGIAN

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Michael Gershe walks out onto the stage with hundreds of faces of high school students staring back at him.

He begins to tell a story of a boy who was involved in a fatal car accident that killed his mother when he was eight weeks old. The boy survived, but not without breaking almost every bone in his body.

The doctors worked furiously with countless blood transfusions to keep the baby boy alive… and they succeeded.

That boy was Gershe. The driver of the car that killed his mother, a drunk driver.

This was a time in Gershe’s life that he has zero recollection or memory, but it was a moment that has impacted him ever since that day. He now uses his story to impact the lives of others, to try and prevent them from making the same mistake that took his mother out of his life.

“That car crash, what I thought was that I didn’t want other people going through what my family went through,” Gershe said. “The car crash doesn’t define me as a person, it’s apart of me, but it doesn’t define me. That was a huge relief because I always thought this is who I am.”

Gershe is a 1992 graduate of Ashland University, majoring in communications with a minor in radio/tv. He was also a member of the AU swim team, WRDL, CAB, President of Kilhefner hall one semester and was a peer advisor during his time at Ashland.

Since 1994, Gershe has been a public speaker, telling his story and how his life was impacted by drunk driving.

However, he likes to divert his story from the regular “gloom and doom” speeches and rather use his talents of being a comedian to make his programs interactive and fun, while being serious and informative at the same time.

“I used humor as it turns out as a defense mechanism, whether it is against bullies or a way to cope through grief my entire life,” Gershe said.

Gershe grew up in Miami, Fla., but when he began looking at colleges he knew he wanted to get far away from home. He was recruited and eventually received an athletic scholarship from Ashland. After accepting it, he made the trek to Ohio, a place he would call home the rest of his life.

He looks back on this decision and says that the experience he received from Ashland shaped the person he is today.

“It was a small school where I don’t think that ‘Accent on the Individual’ was a lie,” Gershe said. “You get that family atmosphere from your friends and the tightness at a small school like Ashland.”

AU also changed his life when it came to alcohol. Gershe succumbed to the stigma of wanting to fit in as a recruit and young student while at Ashland so he drank alcohol like everyone else.

However, knowing his background, he began to fade drinking out of his life during his junior and senior years of college, which would then set him up to be able to legitimately “walk the walk” when he became a public speaker.

“Even at Ashland where I engaged in peer pressure, drinking and stuff, I finally had to stand up on my own two feet and go ‘this is not who I am’ and I remembered who my role models were,” he said.

Those role models that Gershe is talking about, is the band KISS, who have been his role models since he was in the second grade. He said the band sings and talks about peer pressure and believing in yourself, and it was so vital for him to learn those traits at a young age.

Upon graduation from Ashland, Gershe took a year off to work as a camp counselor teaching magic and then he worked as an activities director for a school that taught English to people from all over the world. In 1993 he enrolled for graduate school at the University of Akron and earned his Master’s Degree in higher education in 1995.

He tried to do stand-up comedy full-time after grad school but realized he needed a steadier job, so he became an academic advisor at Cleveland State in 1997 and was there until May of 2000.

Submitted by Michael Gershe
Michael Gershe speaking at an event with a picture of fellow Ashland classmate John Kelly in the background. Kelly died later in life from drunk driving.

At that time, Gershe moved on to Kent State University and is there today as the senior advisor for the College of Aeronautics and Engineering. While he advises 300 students in this position, it allows him to do his stand-up comedy and speaking engagements.

In April of 2015, Gershe took the next step in his personal story and founded the Magic of Life Foundation.

“My thought process with the foundation was that if I started a non-profit then local businesses could donate and help sponsor the program because it’s a community issue, impaired driving affects us all,” Gershe said.

In 2018, he completed a 16-year long project of writing his own book about his life story which is titled, “The Magic of Life: A Son’s Story of Hope after Tragedy, Grief and a Speedo.”

Flashback to 2002, Gershe was working at a comedy club with his friend Greg Morton when they were sitting around talking about their lives. After hearing about Gershe’s life, Morton made Gershe promise him that he was going to write a book about his life, and 16 years later that promise was fulfilled.

“I know how precious life is, everyday I wake up is a good day. I needed to complete it not only for myself but to fulfill that promise to my friend,” Gershe said. “What is ironic is when I finished writing, Greg and I were working together at the Funny Stop (Comedy Club), so talk about timing.”

As Gershe has continued to present his program on impaired driving, he is also beginning to integrate a new presentation program on mental health. He said that he included mental health into his book as well because of the effect that it has had on him.

Gershe said that the moment when he lost his mother at eight weeks old changed his life forever and that grief has always stuck with him. The grief piled on when Gershe lost his father and aunt within 90 days of each other in 2018 and is when he hit rock bottom with his mental health.

Through all of his experiences and life lessons, this is the advice Gershe would give to college students.

“Be who you are, don’t cave into peer pressure, and don’t drive impaired because your decisions impact so many people that you are not aware of,” Gershe said.

To learn more about Michael Gershe’s story or foundation, or if you would like to purchase his book, visit his website at http://www.themagicoflife.com/.

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