Villano family has close ties to University

by Carol C. Bradley

VillanoMarisa, Suze, Michael and Rocky Villano

After his daughter Marisa was accepted as an undergraduate student at Notre Dame, Michael Villano brought her to his alma mater to show her around. That included a stop to visit his favorite teacher, Charles Crowell, a professor in the Department of Psychology. During their talk, Villano mentioned that he might one day like to move from private industry in Colorado back into academia. Crowell suggested an open position. “Suddenly,” Villano’s wife, Suze, recalls, “we were back in Indiana.”

Michael, class of 1983, is now a research assistant professor in the psychology department’s Cognitive, Brain and Behavior program. He’s currently studying the moral decision making of drone pilots with data he collects at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He personally developed a performance assessment tool for pilots, as well. Using two separate video games, the tool compares baseline results to outcomes after pilots have been subjected to oxygen depletion and G-force.

Michael returned to Notre Dame a month before Marisa began her freshman classes 10 years ago. “I was happy for my dad, of course,” Marisa remembers, but as a high school student anticipating going off on her own to college, the family’s move to South Bend, “wasn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for.” Today, she embraces the turn of events. Every member of the family has worked at Notre Dame and has been otherwise engaged in campus activities. They all “get” the passion, she says, for the University that she and her brother share with their father as alumni.

Marisa graduated from Notre Dame in 2010 and is currently assistant director of undergraduate admissions. Suze is administrative director of ND’s Sacred Music Academy. The Villanos have three sons: Mike, a graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington, who is an assistant middle- and high school band director in Anderson, Indiana; Tony, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2015 with an electrical engineering degree; and Rocky, a sophomore studying computer science at Purdue University.

The family also shares a love of music. Michael plays jazz organ. For the last four or five years, Suze and Marisa have sung in two campus choirs, the Basilica Scola and the Collegium Musicum. Rocky plays in the Purdue band, and Tony, who performed in the concert and marching bands and symphony at Notre Dame, continues to play at church.

“Being part of the University of Notre Dame has been a blessing,” says Suze. “Besides having two children attending, we have hosted grad students for dinner and choir members, before and after tours. Our son was in band, so we also have hosted band students at our home.” Though first and foremost Michael identifies as a Notre Dame alumnus, he values the perspective he’s gained as a Notre Dame parent and faculty member. Too, he says, his family’s involvement in the Notre Dame community has given him a “strong sense of pride.”