Michael Rosenthal (Stevenson ’76, Economics/Film), is a proud Stevenson alum. The residential college experience, quintessential to UC Santa Cruz, was transformative for him, and he is deeply grateful for his parents’ support that enabled him to attend UCSC and graduate debt free. He and his wife, Marleen Roggow, are honoring his parents by establishing the Edith and Leon Rosenthal Memorial Diversity Scholarship. Their aim is to help high-achieving under-represented students from the Bay Area who would likely be unable to attend UCSC without financial assistance.
UCSC, he says, introduced him to lifelong friends and exposed him to ideas and opportunities that changed the trajectory of his life. He entered college as an economics major and planned to pursue a career in business, like his father. Michael had finished most of his coursework for his major by his junior year, when he decided to take a filmmaking class offered through Stevenson College. That course ignited a new passion, inspired him to create an independent major in film, and set him on a course that would define his career and shape his life.
There were numerous other interests that were nurtured by his college experience. Small in stature and one of the youngest in his class, Rosenthal remembers mostly unpleasant experiences playing sports in his earlier school years. Intramural sports at UCSC changed all that.
“I really blossomed in the intramural program,” says Michael. “Suddenly, sports became fun. That led to decades of participation in softball leagues, and I still play volleyball most weekends.” He also says his love for nature was formed by his time on campus, surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of the ocean and the forests.
His college film classes inspired him to connect with a friend’s father, Lee Mendelson, who produced network television specials out of his studio in Burlingame. Lee let him sit in and watch the editing process. On the second day, he hired Michael as an assistant editor, launching a long and successful career in film and video in the Bay Area. His credits include producing, writing, and/or editing national and local magazine show segments, documentaries, and cartoons. His work has been seen on PM Magazine, Sesame Street, several Walt Disney productions, and in numerous shows and specials on KPIX and KRON. He served for 15 years as a story producer for Bay Area Backroads (KRON), for which he earned three Emmys.
Now retired, he is on writing progressive political content aimed at deciphering the focused voluminous and narrow ballot California for voters. Michael credits UCSC for providing opportunities to enhance his interest in politics and social justice. He recalls being particularly moved when Cesar Chavez and Dick Gregory came to speak on campus.
In 2003, Michael married Marleen, who immediately felt the Slug love.
“There were about 40 Santa Cruz alumni at our wedding, and Michael’s college friends have now become my friends,” says Marleen, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, who is enamored with the UCSC student experience. “I wish I could go back to college and do it all over again, this time at UC Santa Cruz.”
Marleen serves on the board of a nonprofit that assists newcomers to America with English language skills. The organization also provides academic support to prepare Latinx students for high school graduation and navigate the college search process. Her passion for access to education helped secure the couple’s decision to endow a scholarship at UC Santa Cruz for exceptionally promising students who don’t have the financial well-being to attend college.
“I was driving through one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Richmond (CA), and I thought, ‘What if we can just help one person who wants to get clear of this.’”
She was also inspired by a story she heard about students who need extended support services when they get to college.
“First generation students have a foot in two different worlds and don’t want to come back to the world they came from and feel like an outsider. There’s quite a failure rate unless they also get emotional support,” she said. “So, that became very important to me as we were creating The Edith and Leon Rosenthal Memorial Diversity Scholarship. A place like UC Santa Cruz can do more than provide financial support.”
“I hope this inspires others who may have had a great experience at UC Santa Cruz to give someone else that opportunity,” said Rosenthal.
The Student Success Initiative at UC Santa Cruz supports the university’s belief that creating a genuinely successful higher education experience requires a holistic approach—one that ensures students have access to financial support, secure sources of housing and food, mental health support, and connections that catalyze their social mobility.