Early life and education
Geshe Michael Roach was born in 1952 in Los Angeles, California to Phillip H Roach and Elizabeth Earle Roach. His father was a builder, and his mother was an elementary school educator and volunteer for social welfare organizations such as the Red Cross. He is one of four brothers, the others being Geoffrey, John, and Phillip George. The family moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1958, and Geshe Michael received his elementary and high school education here. Growing up he attended All Saints´ Episcopal Church, where he served as an altar boy, sang in the choir, and became president of the Episcopal Youth Group. He was a member of the church boy-scout troop and completed the Eagle Badge, also receiving the God & Country Medal and the Order of the Arrow. He learned carpentry from his father and worked in construction during the summers for the family business.
In 1970 Geshe Michael was accepted on a full scholarship to Princeton University. He majored in the Department of Religion, and also completed advanced Russian-language studies. He graduated in 1975 with an honors BA in Religion. He received the Presidential Scholar Medal from US President Richard Nixon in a ceremony at the White House.
During his high school and college years, Geshe Michael devoted much time to social activism. In high school he wrote a new school constitution which was accepted by the school administration and allowed the students greater rights. He spent several years as a volunteer for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, helping immigrant laborers from Mexico. He was an active protestor against the Vietnam War and was briefly jailed for his part in the non-violent disruption of napalm weapons research at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.
At Princeton, Geshe Michael served as a student member of the board of the Procter Foundation of the Episcopal Church at Princeton and helped write a revised church liturgy. He lived at the church parish house and was scheduled to attend seminary after graduation. At this point, his mother became gravely ill with breast cancer. Thrown into doubt about the very purpose of life, Geshe Michael in 1973 applied for and took a year off of his studies to travel to India, in search of answers.