Michael Vollmer '90 Fund Presents First-Ever Grant to Mike Ernst '83
There are very few things that could be worse in life than hearing these words, “I’m sorry Mike, but you have ALS.”
Unfortunately, the lives of both Michael Vollmer ’90 and Anthony Michael (Mike) Ernst ’83 were turned upside down when they received the diagnosis that they had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Vollmer, an imposing figure in a Crimson uniform, earned two varsity letters in football, was a 1989 All-Ivy League honorable mention selection, and was the team's Joseph E. Wolf Award recipient as the team's outstanding interior lineman. Diagnosed in 2003, Vollmer courageously battled ALS for 12 years before succumbing to the disease.
Ernst, a bruising running back, was a three-year football letterwinner, a member of Harvard’s 1982 Ivy League championship team, and the recipient of the Henry L. Lamar Award for total dedication to the program. Mike also served a year as the running backs coach for the Crimson’s freshmen football squad in 1984, before moving to Italy where he coached American football for over a decade and met his wife, Christiana.
Shortly after Mike Vollmer was diagnosed with ALS, a handful of high school and college teammates and friends created the Michael Vollmer Wholly Discretionary Fund and raised over $100,000 in an effort to improve Mike’s quality of life. After Mike’s passing in 2015, the group approached the Harvard Varsity Club with the desire to donate the remaining funds in Mike Vollmer’s name to assist other Harvard athletes in need, and shortly thereafter the Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund was born.
Last weekend, three of Mike Vollmer’s teammates, John Brzezenski ’91, Greg Gicewicz ’89-90, and Bob Glatz ’88, visited Mike and Christiana Ernst in Clinton, MA and delivered the first-ever grant from the Harvard Varsity Club’s Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund, along with a game ball signed by the 2016 football team and some Dillon-wear. The $20,000 grant will help the Ernst family with expenses related to Mike’s battle with ALS.
Steve Ernst ’84, Mike’s brother and also a former Crimson football player, shared Mike and Christiana’s reaction via email, “The Harvard Varsity Club community showed profound depth and love when you visited my brother Mike. Both Mike and Christiana were completely blown away by the generosity of Team Vollmer and by the initiative of everyone involved. The funds will go a long way toward keeping Mike as comfortable as possible. I believe that in every major storm there is a demonstration of greatness and of true character. Yesterday surely demonstrated that in spades.”
This story will not end here; we ask everyone in the Harvard Athletics community to make a gift to the Michael Vollmer ’90 Fund so that we may continue to help Mike Ernst, and any other Crimson athletes who are suffering from ALS or other neurological diseases.
The Harvard Varsity Club – Your Team for Life.