How did you first become involved with A Chance In Life, and what continues to draw you to the mission today?
Nearly ten years ago I was invited to the San Francisco Ball by my good friend and past Honoree of the Year, Rick Martellaro. That night, I was profoundly moved by the compassion for children in need that Monsignor Carroll-Abbing showed when he founded La Città dei Ragazzi (Boys' & Girls' Towns of Italy).
Today, I am no less committed to the mission of A Chance In Life, as I see so much need globally for children who are victims of civil unrest and war; and now a global pandemic. To be of service to those in need is our highest calling. All of us as supporters are blessed in our personal and professional lives and can make a difference for vulnerable ragazzi (boys and girls) – who among us does not see them as our children, too?
As head of your firm, you made the decision to focus on educational design to improve the education experience for students. As a member of our A Chance In Life family and as our future San Francisco honoree, you work to remove obstacles to education for many young people around the world. What inspires your passion for education? What advice would you give other professionals on how to match their philanthropic passions with their work?
My career as an architect focuses on designing schools, where I am fortunate to work with teachers who are dedicated to making a societal difference that impacts generations of children. Since my first school project over 30 years ago, I see designing places for students to learn not only as my profession but also my personal passion, making a difference in the lives of students and teachers.
At its core, philanthropy is personal. For those who support the mission of the Towns, giving is part of who they are. As I discovered in the design of schools, within each of our professions there exists a nexus between our work and our giving. One need only look up to see opportunities to volunteer for at-risk youth, offer pro bono services in your field, or simply contribute. My only advice is to find a cause that you are passionate about; this will not only succeed but will sustain and enrich you beyond expectations.
A few of our young people have said they would like to study architecture when they graduate high school. Based on your many years in the field, what advice would you offer them?
In my work designing schools, I immensely enjoy opportunities to talk to students about the field of architecture. Because the field is a wonderful blend of art and science, my advice is to find the areas of architecture that they enjoy; painting, drawing, math and most importantly, reading and writing. Like all fields, the ability to articulately write is of paramount importance in architecture.
So many of our daily activities and routines have changed as a result of the pandemic, and it can be challenging to stay connected at a time when in person interaction is limited. What are some ways you have continued to stay connected during this time, either with loved ones or some of the charitable organizations you support?
Like everyone, my personal and professional connections these days focus on video chats. It’s remarkable how connected I can feel in a simple video chat with friends. While not the same as being across the table from them, I’ve been grateful to “see” them in our occasional happy hours or group video chats where we catch up on new hobbies (the gardening is amazing!), our children and how we’re all managing the isolation. I cannot imagine how people of past pandemics managed before Zoom.
I strive not to let the pandemic limit my charitable support. I see the organizations I support pivot, nearly on a dime, to create remarkably creative virtual events. A Chance in Life with its upcoming October virtual event is a perfect example of such resourcefulness. One only needs to read A Chance In Life's newsletters or emails to see how the pandemic has impacted so many families. I implore us all to give now more than ever.
We're so grateful to Mark for his time this month, and for his long standing support of our youth. If you would like to learn more about our upcoming 75th Anniversary Virtual Gala, you can explore the many ways to participate here. If you would like to read the rest of the Summer Newsletter that this interview originally appeared in, you can find it here.