Michael J. Armstrong’s Biography (August 31, 1967–September 11, 2001)
He was hungry early on. Somewhere on a home-movie reel from 1969 a chubby-legged toddler still waddles about wearing an oversized bib, a small foreshadowing of an insatiable appetite that would not be satisfied by food alone. Ten years later he had become the master of restraint, often making a chocolate bar last a whole week. With Mike, the things he loved in life were always savored. A native New Yorker, he loved his city with a passion. He loved people. He loved good food. He loved sharing good food. He loved a long talk that would carry into the early hours of the next day. He loved defending an underdog. He loved a good dig. He loved a good comeback. He loved a big crowd. He loved sports. He loved the excitement that hangs in the air before a big game. He loved loyalty. He loved the loyalty of a good friend. He loved. He loved as well as anyone can love.
Circumstances did not beckon him to find himself until the end of his sophomore year at Xavier High School in lower Manhattan, a school his older brother had graduated from two years before. Mike was not happy there, and his poor grades reflected it. In the spring he was asked to find another school, and in the fall, a season that usually brings about wilting, he began to flourish. He started his junior year at Loyola High School, a small school in the heart of Yorkville. Loyola was halfway through administering a high school education to many of Mike’s elementary school friends. The prodigal son had come home, home to a school that would have welcomed him with a partial scholarship two years before but was now understandably tentative about taking a risk on a kid who no longer showed much promise on paper. He put his best foot forward, however, and it didn’t take him long to show everyone that he was well worth the effort. While never a straight-A student, he did well at Loyola. He cared, not merely about the difference he could make for himself but the difference he could make for others. His quintessential talents lay far deeper than getting respectable grades. His true gifts, the ones that flowed from him so effortlessly, were much more far reaching. He was wonderful with people. He was a natural public servant, and his classmates soon saw it. At the end of his junior year, his first year at Loyola, he was elected president of the student body. And so began a love affair that would see him well in to adulthood. He worked tirelessly for Loyola for the next seventeen years of his life. Always eager to see old friends and make new ones, he would be at Loyola fundraisers with bells on.
After graduating from Loyola, he attended Syracuse University in upstate New York, but again the fit wasn’t right. After a year, he came back to his beloved New York City, but not without having cemented several more lifelong friendships at Syracuse, for embracing people from all walks of life always came naturally. It was on to Fordham University in the Bronx, and again, a perfect match. While at Fordham, he acquired the nickname Posse, or Poss for short. While rumors abound regarding the origin of the name, most seem to believe it is derived from the popular slang word for group, which, since he always had large numbers with him, seems to be a legitimate theory. Again, the friendships made at Fordham were of soul-piercing quality. Many of them got stronger after graduation. New ones were born at alumni events. As a fellow Fordham alumnus twenty years Mike’s senior put it best, “I knew we would be friends for the rest of our lives. We were suffering from the same disease. We both loved Fordham.” With Mike, there were no boundaries when it came to forging a new alliance—not age, not race, not religion. A superb judge of character, he had a way of cutting straight through to the essence of what really mattered in an individual. Having been the recipient of second chances himself, he was quick to give someone the benefit of the doubt. He knew what it was like to stumble, yet he repeatedly found his way. He was eager to see others do the same. He was wonderfully human.
His sweet disposition and hardworking nature paved the way for many progressions throughout his eleven years in the working world. He left his first job as a credit analyst with the factoring firm Milberg Factors in August 1992 to join the Office of Management and Budget for the City of New York, where he worked as a budget analyst for over four years under David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani while he put himself through graduate school at night. His newly acquired master’s degree and his appetite for the financial world led him to his role as director of investor relations at The Bond Buyer, a publication for the municipal bond industry, before he joined Cantor Fitzgerald in 1999. He became a vice president of electronic trading at Cantor, where his love and admiration for his colleagues ran deep.
The past, and Mike, is forever a part of us. Somewhere on a home-movie reel from 1969 a toddler still walks. Only now, when we view him, we know how steady and sure those steps became. We know what paths those feet took. We know the difference he made to all of us.
Michael J. Armstrong is survived by his fiancée, his family, and innumerable friends.