Mike Barkowski, a 2007 Illinois State University graduate, described the events leading up to him donating a pair of tickets to an upcoming Redbirds basketball game to the College of Business as “a really weird story.”

“I was on the L train in Chicago, and I was wearing an Illinois State polo,” he recalled.

Also riding on the transit system was current student Nick Roti, who recognized Mike as one of the season ticket holders who has floor passes to ISU basketball games. The two struck up a conversation and exchanged phone numbers before going their separate ways.

 While the two tried to meet up in the fall at a Redbird football game, they were unable to do so. Neither forgot about their conversation on the train, however, and last month Nick contacted Mike to see if he would help out with a marketing project to help get the word out about the College of Business’ social media outlets. Mike was impressed that the student took the initiative to ask him and agreed to donate two floor passes to the Thursday, Feb. 8, game against Southern Illinois University.

The tickets will be awarded as part of a prize giveaway on game day on the Business ISU Facebook page.

“Illinois State just seems to be getting stronger. That’s something that’s really impressed me,” observed Mike before adding he was pleased to have the opportunity to “pay it forward” and do his part to “keep that momentum going.”

“I was more than happy to help him out,” the alum observed. “I’ve gotten so much out of Illinois State … I wouldn’t be where I am today without the wonderful people down there … I didn’t really have any big connections there going into school, but I came out of there loving every minute of it.”

Although he now lives in Chicago, Mike enjoys cheering on the Redbirds every chance he gets.

“Ironically, I wasn’t really involved with sports as a student in terms of going to games. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I started becoming a pretty big fan,” he observed. “I try to make at least 12 to 15 games a year for basketball. I love coming back down to Normal. When you go back you think of all the wonderful memories you had down there and all the challenges too.”