Director of Strategic Services Anthony Manno crowd surfs for the first time at the 2016 Centralhallapalooza. Anthony Manno | Courtesy

When Director of Strategic Services Anthony Manno ’13 graduated and began working as director of student activities five days later, people told him he had big shoes to fill.

But Manno said Assistant Dean of Men Jeffery “Chief” Rogers told him, “You’ve got your own shoes to fill,” and he thought, “Yeah, I do, and they’re probably bigger than Amanda Bigney’s anyway.”

Three years and four job titles later, Manno will join his father in the family business, Manno Clothing & Tailoring Inc., an upscale men’s wear and full-service tailor in Dearborn, Michigan. At the end of May, he will pass on the responsibility and the wisdom to never compare yourself to others to Director of Student Activities Ashlynn Landherr ’16, who took over from Manno in January.

“It’s something that has always tugged at my heart, because it’s a family business, it’s a family legacy; there is a lot of pride and love associated with that,” Manno said.

His grandfather, an Italian immigrant, opened the clothing store in 1974. Manno’s father entered the enterprise about 35 years ago at age 25.

Manno’s father, now 62, also didn’t start work with his father immediately. At first, he served as a correctional officer, passing his state police exam and being assigned to Cadillac, Michigan, before deciding to put family first and join his father’s business.

Striking it on his own, as well, Manno took the job as director of student activities, on Vice President of Student Affairs Diane Philipp’s recommendation in 2013. Philipp said he was a natural for the job from the start.

Manno said he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going into retail because of guilt or a sense of obligation.

“I finally reached that point, just a matter of weeks ago,” he said. “I want to do this — I want to give this a try, I want to give my 100 percent.”

Manno is creative, but he said he likes to see things from start to finish. His goal while working for the Student Activities Board was to bring more legitimacy to the office.

“I can comfortably say now I can justify everything we do here from an activity’s standpoint and how that relates to a liberal-arts education,” he said. “We provide an atmosphere where you can apply what you’ve learned in the classroom, and you can go out and engage with your community and create new friendships. I hope I’m leaving that.”

Philipp credited him for an amazing job creating and holding events for the college and said she appreciates his dedication, determination, and desire to serve students.

“Of course, he would give all credit to the efforts of those who work alongside him,” she said. “He is humble, faith-filled, loyal and dedicated to his responsibilities.”

It’s true: He credited Philipp for her hands-off, supportive leadership style that pushed his creative freedom, which he  said he strives to emulate in his own team.

Because both Manno and Landherr played basketball for the Chargers, they refer to everyone who works for SAB, like junior Jake Kenyon, as team members rather than employees.

“He really encourages us to do our own thing and take ownership of what we do,” Kenyon said. “He leads with a very light hand, and really, he just makes a point to be friends with everyone that he works with.”

Kenyon recalled first getting to know Manno while decompressing after Centralhallapalooza last year, three weeks into his work with SAB. Manno said he considers CHP, which will be his last event of the year, unbeatable as a favorite, because it reaches so much of campus.

“From our side of it, which nobody sees, you have this sweat, this camaraderie, this hustle,” he said. “People don’t know, but they’re sitting in class next to people working so hard for this.”

Seeing people have fun makes the extra hours planning and long days setting up worth it.

“When we plan, and we put on all these things, and we see people having a ton of fun, we know that it was really well-received. You don’t need a survey after.”

Next year, he said he’s looking forward to participating in school events led by Landherr as a “normal” alumni.

“SAB is in great hands,” Manno said. “There is not a person that is more fit to do this job.”