Mike O’Pake was a lifelong resident of Reading and Berks County, growing up in a public housing project in the city. A devout Catholic, he was a graduate of Central Catholic High school, where he served as student council president, and was valedictorian and the recipient of numerous awards. He attended St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
In 1972, he was first elected to the Pennsylvania Senate after having spent two terms in the State House of Representatives. He was re-elected every four years for nearly four decades. He was the longest serving member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. At the time of his death, he was serving as the Democratic Whip in the state Senate, the second highest ranking position in the caucus.
Throughout his career, O’Pake was a tireless and effective advocate for children, seniors and the disadvantaged. During his legislative career, he was instrumental in enacting such significant legislation as:
O’Pake also was able to draw public funding to support community projects in Berks County, securing capital investments for the Googleworks, the IMAX Theater, the Sovereign Center and the I76 corridor.
O’Pake served on the boards of St. Joseph’s University, the University of Scranton and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. And he was a good friend to Alvernia, serving on its Board of Trustees, securing funding for the university’s Science Center and leaving a bequest to help found the O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service.