Alumni Profile - Michael Scullin '79

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Scullin in Paris with Mark Schwartz

Honorary Consul for France, Reflects on Zete and His Career Path

It was 2 a.m. when the phone rang. 

Michael Scullin (Sigma ’79) answered quickly and learned that a French man making a solo trip across the Atlantic to the U.S. had capsized his boat. He’d lost everything, including his passport. Though it was the middle of the night, Michael worked quickly to ensure the traveler, rescued by a passing ship, could gain entry to the country.

You may know Michael as a fellow Zete or an old friend, but in the Philadelphia area, he’s known as an international lawyer and the Honorary Consul of France, the country’s official representative in the region. Emergency situations like this don’t happen often, but when they do, this Zete alumnus is on call to serve as a liaison between French citizens and visitors and U.S. agencies, like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Michael’s role on multiple boards for French associations in the Philadelphia area—in addition to the international relationships he’s cultivated in his law career—made him the ideal candidate for the diplomatic position. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Looking back, Michael says he’s always been interested in international affairs. 

He learned Spanish at an early age, and at just 13 years old, he spent a summer away from home with friends of his family in Mexico City. In high school, he built upon that foundation, learning Latin and ancient Greek and even studying in Rome for a summer.

In fact, that’s part of what attracted him to a group as diverse as Sigma Chapter. 

“By the time I got to Penn, I had a lot of international exposure, which wasn’t all that common back then,” Michael explains. “Zete was very international also. There were guys from all over the place—Nigeria, the Philippines, France, and Spain… so I felt at home there. It was a classy place, but the members were also warm and down to earth. It was a group that had a certain elegance, a rich history, and a local presence populated by leaders in the community. It was traditional yet modern and internationally diverse.”

As an undergrad, Michael enjoyed the social opportunities that Zete provided, but he says he’s grateful for the formative experience.

“Just being in the fraternity—being exposed to the social aspects, rushing, recruiting new members, and organizing events—was helpful,” he says.

Scullin with the Ambassador of France, H.E. Gérard Araud

In those years, Michael’s interest in travel and exploring other cultures only grew. He took a year off before law school to visit Europe, but he had some familiar faces from Zete to keep him company along the way.

“A couple of weeks before I arrived in Paris from Germany, I found a telephone booth and called Mark Schwartz ’79, who was also coming to Europe,” he explains. “This was back before we had cell phones and internet, but we arranged to meet at an arbitrary spot neither of us had ever laid eyes on—in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. A few weeks later, with no other communication besides that original phone call, I found the cathedral, and sure enough, there was Mark! It was just a really cool experience—we had a great trip.”

Michael fell in love with France—the sights, the sounds, the aromas—during that trip. It was during that stay that Michael really built the foundation for his future. Developing international relationships with the French and other foreign bar associations and international lawyers was an important stepping stone. His experiences abroad probably helped earn him the Honorary Consul position and develop his career in law. Today, he specializes in international transactions and estates.

As for his ties to Zeta Psi, Michael often bumps into brothers, such as Carter Caldwell ’99 and Jim Bodine ’86, and recently had lunch with Sid Smith (Phi ’78). Social media helps too. Just this month, he was communicating on Facebook with Dick Guest ’77, who is currently working in Saudi Arabia, and he connected this past year with Daphne Chase Rowe ’79 on Linked-In. He still keeps in touch with Mark despite living in different cities and recently hosted Walter Douglas ’77 (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy and for Regional and Security Policy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs) at his house when he was in the Philadelphia area. He also does his best to make it out to Sigma chapter events, like the spring banquet and homecoming.

“The support and camaraderie shared by current and former Zetes range from getting together in clubs on the Riviera when I was young to getting together last year in northern New Jersey with Zetes from a number of classes to mourn the loss of one of our brothers—Gordon Glover ’90—who passed away prematurely, and provide emotional support to his wife and children. It was a sad occasion but one where we benefitted from a strong sense of shared experience and community.”