Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tonganoxie community leader Ken Mark to end 36-year KCKCC career


When Ken Mark joined the business faculty at Kansas City Kansas Community College, it was supposed to be for just one year.

“The guy I replaced, John Young, took a year’s sabbatical to work on his Ph.D. and never came back,” says Mark. Now, 36 years later, Mark is retiring at the end of the Spring Semester. “It’s been a tough decision to leave but I felt it was time. I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve worked with in the Business Division.”

However, he won’t be lacking for things to keep him busy.

The editor of an on-line newsletter for business instructors for McGraw-Hill Publishing, he’s also done a lot of writing and reviewing for McGraw-Hill’s personal finance and accounting textbooks and ‘Learn Smart’ homework management system and will continue with those responsibilities.

By virtue of passing a rigorous two-day examination, he’s also an enrolled agent with the Internal Revenue Service which means he can argue for his income tax clients before the IRS, a role limited only to attorneys, CPA’s and enrolled agents.

Mark holds two master’s degrees, an MBA from the University of Kansas and a Masters in Financial Services from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Penn., an accredited college that also does the CLU and Chfc designations for life insurance and financial planning industries.

Then there’s all his community efforts in his home town of Tonganoxie where he was named 2009 Citizen of the Year by the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce and selected to be the Grand Leprechaun for the 2010 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

He’s currently president of the Tonganoxie Education Foundation, an organization that helps out schools financially mainly through grants to teachers for innovative projects not covered through normal budgets.

“We also started a Tonganoxie Hall of Fame in 2010 with a reception and dinner the day of Homecoming followed the next day by an Academic Achievement breakfast to honor kids in the third through eighth grades who had exemplary scores on state assessment tests.”

For 16 years including 12 as chairman, he served on the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission and was a catalyst in the construction of the 11-acre Chieftain Park built on the site of a former trailer court in 1999.

Boasting three soccer fields, baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, beach volleyball, horseshoe pits, walking trail and playground, “It was built mainly with volunteer efforts,” Mark says proudly. In addition, several other ball fields and soccer fields were built during Mark’s tenure.

To further facilitate the facilities, KCKCC has played soccer games at Tonganoxie and Mark has solicited several KCKCC coaches to facilitate clinics including former tennis coach Sid Kanter, former soccer coach Jordie McGonagle and baseball coach Steve Burleson and his staff.

In 1989, he organized the first and only baseball card and memorabilia show at KCKCC as a fund-raiser for the Endowment Association with future baseball Hall of Famer Enos (Country) Slaughter as the featured guest along with ex-major leaguers Ray Sadecki and Don Gutteridge.

In retirement, he’s looking into working with the Christian Foundation for Children (CFCA), a foundation located on Southwest Boulevard that helps with food and medical care and education in about 25 countries.

“I may start by volunteering,” says Mark, who previously worked for the foundation in the summer of 2007. “It’s a great place, one of the highest rated charities in the U.S. My wife and I sponsor a child in Guatemala through the CFCA and I met him on a mission trip to San Lucas in 2009.”

He’s also active in the Tonganoxie Civic Club and served six year on the parish council at Sacred Heart Church in Tonganoxie.

His dream job, however, is booking conferences, a role he’s filled during a portion of his 20 years as a member of the Teachers of Accounting at Two-Year Colleges. As Vice-President of Conference training, he’s had the responsibility of checking out hotels, booking entertainment and transportation and the countless other tasks involved with setting up a major conference.

“I really enjoyed that, going to places and negotiating,” says Mark, who during his tenure has booked conferences in Atlanta, Boston, Indianapolis, San Antonio and Phoenix.

A lifelong resident of Tonganoxie, his ties with the community go back much farther. His dad was mayor for 14 years and on the town council six years while his grandfather was mayor six years in the 1940’s. A 1970 graduate of Tonganoxie High School, Mark ran cross country and was a member of the student council.

“I loved sports but was only 5-8 the end of my freshman year and 6-1 and 150 pounds when I graduated so I was not that physically developed,” says Mark, who would stretch to 6-foot-4 and become an accomplished adult basketball and softball player.

Collegiately, Mark spent two years at Donnelly College before earning a BA in Business from the University of Kansas in 1974. “I started on my MBA and interned two years in the KU Sports Information Office and thought I might get into that actually,” said Mark. And then the ad appeared for someone to teach business at KCKCC for one year and his future was set.

While he taught just about every business course offered at KCKCC, Mark also did some coaching.

“My second year they had an emergency need for a women’s basketball coach and Sports Information Director and Walt Shublom asked me to coach women’s basketball and be SID. I did that for one year but I was trying to finish my Masters, teach and coach and it was just too much. But the next year after I finished by MBA, I helped Frank Bigham for a year with women’s basketball.”

Living in Tonganoxie also gave Mark a chance to meet the new school teachers, one of whom (Cheta) he’ll have been married to for 34 years come September. Cheta retired last year after 37 years teaching in the Tonganoxie school systems. They have two children, Kara Hansen, a social worker at Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Brendan, a news producer at KCTV-Channel 5.

There’s also two Hansen grandchildren, Claire, 5, and Drew, 2.