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John Mike and Anthony D'Agostino

Growing up in Kansas City, brothers Anthony and John Mike D’Agostino got along, mostly.  (There was that time that Anthony hit John Mike in the face with a tennis racquet.) But there were clear differences. Anthony was laid-back and on the student council.  John Mike was more animated, a jock. But somewhere along the way, their paths converged and the two brothers ended up as classmates. Today, both are graduates of the master of public policy administration and a nonprofit management and leadership certificate programs.

Asked if he is surprised that his two older sons ended up in the same field, their father, John D’Agostino, responded without hesitation, “Absolutely.  It was a shocker.”

The convergence began when John Mike decided to follow Anthony to St. Louis University for his undergraduate degree.

The second of five children, Anthony, 28, was not one to be practical and earned degrees in theology and philosophy. He now chairs of the theology department at Incarnate Word Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school.

Younger than Anthony by three years, John Mike was on a path to take over the family construction business, with a degree in business marketing and management. But after spending 18 months working with his father, John Mike knew the construction business wasn’t for him. 

At just the right time, Anthony convinced his brother to join him on a backpacking trip in Italy, during which John Mike’s decision became clear.

“I just sat down when we got back from Italy and told my dad I was unhappy,” John Mike said. “He said, ‘yeah, I know.’ It was really cool. I was really scared I was going to let him down.”

Anthony had just started the MPPA/NPML program and told John Mike, “I think it’s right down your alley,” Anthony said.

John Mike drove to St. Louis to check out the program and decided to make the leap.

The brothers attribute their pursuit of altruistic careers primarily to their very community-oriented Catholic family. Two great-uncles were priests, one of whom founded an AIDS village in Kenya, where John Mike volunteered for six month after completing his MPPA and NPML certificate. Their grandmother served on the board of a college for at-risk youth. She was, the brothers said, “a strong moral influence.”

The combination of these values, morals and ethics, along with their father and grandfather’s business sense, led the brothers to pursue the MPPA and the NPML certificate, they said.

The two have similar career goals as well, as both hope to work with disadvantaged kids. Today, Anthony continues to work at Incarnate Word and is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership, while John Mike is volunteering at a homeless shelter in Sacramento, California.

Despite his early surprise, Dad D’Agostino now sees their different temperaments brought them to the same place, via different journeys.

“They’re both leaders,” he said.


Adapted from article first published in NPML enewsletter Spring 2009