Impact of Giving: Mitchell Marks
Hailing from Glasgow, Mont., Mitch Marks ’84 selected Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings) because it suited his needs as a rural high school student seeking entrance to the business world.
“I chose EMC for a few reasons. First, it was relatively close to where my parents lived. It was still in Eastern Montana,” explained Mitch. “I wanted a small school, coming from a rural community. It was affordable, it was convenient, I had friends who were going there, and it had a business school.” He was soon embraced by the ’Jacket Family.
“There are lots of memories from EMC, from the dorms to the classrooms to the friendships I built,” Mitch recalled. “Sue Hart was one of my favorites. And people like Jim Friguglietti, Dawn Chesarek, and Harry Gaghen. I did some work-study for the academic vice president’s office, and that was interesting.”
Following graduation, having earned a general business degree with banking emphasis, Mitch applied with First Bank (now US Bank) to work in Billings. No openings were available in the state, so he took a position in Rapid City, S.D., then Sioux Falls, S.D., and finally Minneapolis, Minn., as a Technology Evaluation / Implementation Manager. Though his career took him far from Big Sky Country, Mitch has not forgotten his roots.
“MSU Billings helped me in my career and to earn the money I’ve earned over the last 32 years,” said Mitch, remarking on his giving history which reaches back to 1987. “It’s my way of paying back the community. I am a believer of supporting those entities you either use or enjoy.” Initially, Mitch contributed to the Nicola Freeman Women’s Studies Book Scholarship, in honor of mentor and friend Sue Hart, and the Harold H. Winter Memorial Endowed Scholarship. In 2000, Mitch put his entire giving focus on the Winter Endowment, which serves business majors who have financial need and are enrolled full time.
“Many years ago I didn’t have enough money to set up a named endowment of my own, but I wanted to make sure my gift helped in perpetuity, so I invested in the Harold Winter Endowment that funds scholarships for the business school,” said Mitch.
While the MSU Billings Foundation reaches out to alumni in a variety of ways, Mitch prefers to hear from the students themselves.
“I like the phonathon because I get to talk to students and find out what’s going on, why they’re going to school, and what their interests are. I donate once a year, usually in the fall. I make sure I do it before tax planning – and I make sure my employer matches my gift.”
Extensions of corporate philanthropy, matching gift programs are designed to be the means by which companies support employee charitable giving. As an example, US Bank will match employees’ charitable giving up to $1,000.
Mitch urges others to research this philanthropic magnifier.
“It’s like a match on your 401K. It’s free money that doesn’t cost you but doubles your gift,” Mitch advised. He also commended MSU Billings’ commitment to access. “I believe MSU Billings provides a quality education at a reasonable price,” said Mitch. “If a student really wants an education, they can do it.”
And Mitch is making sure they get that chance.