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Why I Give: Alex “Alpo” Portelli ’81

Portellis ProfileMajor: Political Science
Profession: Retired Colonel, U.S. Army


Q: Why did you attend UT?
A: I was accepted to 57 U.S. colleges, including all the Ivy League schools, but after a visit to UT, decided this was the U for me! The small class sizes guaranteed a much more personalized educational experience.


Q: What were you involved in at UT?
A: I participated in fencing and the UT Drill Team. (I met my wife, Gail, competing in the National Pershing Rifle Drill Meet.) I am most proud of my stint as Senior Class Rep 1980-1981.


Q: Did you have a favorite professor?
A: I was fortunate to have a handful of favorite professors that served as mentors through the years — Maj. Ed Thomas of the ROTC program, Drs. Richard Piper and Bob Kerstein for poli-sci, Dr. Stephen Speronis, the gentle giant, for history and Mon Docteur William Leith who kept French (one of my nine fluent languages) up to par. Equally important were the writing skills taught by Dr. Andy Solomon.


Q: Favorite place on campus?
A: The Rathskeller — many a good class was held there as were numerous discussion groups (and parties)!


Q: How did UT help prepare you for a career?
A: UT made me what I am today. In spite of master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Army War College, the UT experience shaped my career. Through early tactical Army assignments and continued assignments as a military-political specialist in Europe (with 20 consecutive years of high-level assignments in Norway, Turkey and Germany), the UT experience set me up for success.


Q: What friendships began at UT?
A: My fellow ROTC grads and Pershing Riflemen/women like the Simon and Pauchey clan to friends along fraternity-sorority row, especially Meg McCarty ’80 with whom I worked admissions for UT.


Q: Did you work while you were at UT?
A: I worked at Dusty Rhodes’ Wrangler Ranch in Tampa Bay Mall and the Speronis family’s Gandy Moorings Marina — my “history class annex” where, after work, Doc Speronis would grill me for (cherished) hours on history, Byzantine culture, social science, cultural science and comparative religion

Q: How do you stay connected with UT?
A: Mostly online, with The Minaret, but also through the UT Journal. Anyone up for an alumni gathering in the Carolinas?


Q: Why do you support UT?
A: I owe UT more than anyone can imagine. Gail spent my senior year with me and has fond memories as well. Giving to UT has been an annual event through the years; a small amount here, a larger amount there. Now we have decided to start with a large pledge to UT and hope to add to it over time. We hope our gift will help catapult UT students to the forefront of their chosen professions throughout the future.