Cycling for Service—Inspired Father Establishes Bush School Fellowship

November 08, 2017

Mickey Branisa at the end of his ride, with a bike and an American flag over his shoulders
Mickey Branisa after completing his cross-country ride

Houston attorney Mickey Branisa recently completed a 3,784-mile bike ride through seventeen states, beginning in Astoria, Oregon, and ending in Portland, Maine. In 2010, his fourteen-year-old, Ryan, passed away after an accidental fall while hiking Table Mountain in South Africa. Mickey and his wife, Susan, honored their late son by raising awareness and support for a fellowship at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University through this journey.

The ride was much more than a long distance adventure; the ride was a trip through the heart of America. Mickey’s everyday encounters with people across the country gave him a perspective on his beloved United States and the public servants who make a difference.

“Whenever Susan and I have visited the Bush School, the students appear to be what our country needs: young, principled leaders with a passion for public service. Some young people unfortunately do not have the financing to finish their studies, and we’d like to help them,” said Mickey.  “Ryan would’ve been a leader, and we want to help other young people develop into leaders in his memory.”

Branisa facing the Welcome to Washington sign

Welcome to Washington

“Ryan very much liked Bush 41’s style and his policies—especially his international policies—and I’m confident that he would have gone into the public service arena,” said Mickey. “Susan and Ryan visited the campus and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum one month before his passing. Since he couldn’t graduate from there, something we can do is gather attention and support towards our cause in hopes that other people will feel the desire to contribute.”

An avid bicyclist for over thirty years, Branisa took a partial sabbatical from practicing law to begin training and actually complete the ride. He rode an average of ninety-one miles per day and says it was a great way to see America up close. Mickey says he approached the long days of biking by using a technique he has refined in his law practice.

“I’ve always set goals,” Mickey says, “so in this endeavor, I’d break the daily ride into what I call ‘doable’ sections and focus on riding until lunch, which was approximately fifty miles, and then the rest of the daily ride, which would consist of the next fifty, felt more manageable.” He also preferred to bike alone since he felt that allowed him to focus on the country in which he was traveling and better the chances of encountering others, rather than just looking at the rider in front of him.

Branisa on the trail

Mickey on the trail

“America is a great country,” Mickey says, “and I found remarkable and resourceful people full of pride in many of the things that I was interested in. People everywhere want good government and a sense of community, and this is where public servants make such an important difference. I believe that Bush School graduates who choose public service provide the ‘glue’ that’s needed to hold communities together, and that’s why Susan and I have established this fellowship. It’s clear that underserved smaller communities need the expertise and the solid commitment to serving others and making a real difference that Bush School graduates have. So these funds are really creating an opportunity for a future public servant.”

Riding for Ryan

“This ride was in part a celebration and remembrance of a life well-lived by Ryan. May the ride inspire others, including the recipients of the Ryan Branisa Fellowship at the Bush School, to always challenge themselves and serve others in the mold and vision of President George H. W. Bush,” Mickey said.

For more information about the ride, go to Mickey’s facebook:
To donate to the Michael Ryan Branisa Fellowship, go to

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