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Mark '62 & Susan Spivack

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Finding the Right Fit Paid Off
March 2012

In 1958, as a senior in New York City’s Bronx High School of Science, Mark Spivack ’62 was limited to applying to just three colleges, plus one of New York City’s universities.  Because of this school rule his high school counselors carefully reviewed his skills and strengths, and then recommended where he should consider attending.  Mark knew that he did not want to live at home in his parents’ confined apartment so he explored their suggestions, one of which was a small school in upstate New York that he had never heard of, Clarkson College of Technology. 

Although just sixteen at the time, Mark knew that finding the right fit was going to be important when selecting a school.  And fit is exactly what he found while visiting Clarkson.  Upon enrollment he quickly became actively involved in campus activities.  During the second semester of his freshman year Mark was one of the founding members of Phi Delta, a local fraternity.  In fact, he wrote the incorporation papers and the by-laws; and just a couple of years later was involved in Phi Delta’s purchase of a house at 74 Elm Street.  In addition to creating lifelong friendships this experience helped him gain invaluable legal, management and leadership skills.  Another campus activity that diversified Mark’s college experience was Army ROTC, through which he joined the Pershing Rifles and was a member of its drill team … A further growth experience for Mark that he felt enhanced his leadership abilities while providing valuable lessons in discipline.

After graduating Clarkson with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering Mark went on to Columbia University where he earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees in the same discipline.  Shortly thereafter he entered the workforce at Union Carbide where he spent the next 27 years.  His initial assignment was in research and development; in a few years he moved into the business world with successive positions in patents and licensing, product management, marketing and new business development, in addition to which he was CEO of several subsidiaries.  A few years before Union Carbide was acquired by Dow Chemical, Mark was a senior manager in Carbide’s silicones business; a unit that was spun off by Carbide and became a private company called OSi Specialties.  At OSi he was a corporate Vice President with global responsibility for the company’s largest business.  Three years later OSi was acquired by the specialty chemicals producer, Witco Corporation, where he became the VP with business responsibility for a major piece of Witco, following which he was tapped by the CEO to lead corporate strategic planning.  This turned out to be the final phase in Mark’s corporate career as he retired in 1998 when Witco was merged with another specialty chemical company that evolved to the present day Chemtura Corporation.  “During the 34 years of my corporate career I worked for three companies, none of which exist anymore, except on paper” Mark joked.  After leaving the corporate world Mark consulted in the industry and served on a number of boards.   

Mark’s success and focus on his work life did not prevent him from staying connected to Clarkson.  In the early 1980s Mark was invited to join the Engineering Advisory Council.  For the next 18 years, more than half the length of his corporate career, Mark devoted countless hours and energy to enhance Clarkson for current and future students.  “It was exciting to help both the faculty and administration develop visions and missions for their departments, the School of Engineering, and ultimately the University.  The most satisfying part was coming back to campus each year to see the majority of our recommendations actually implemented”, Mark explained.  “It said a lot about the faculty and the administration … They truly valued our time and input.”

In addition to the volunteer services Mark has provided to Clarkson he and his wife, Susan, have also been loyal annual fund donors, contributing every year since Mark entered the workforce.   “It is a must do each year.  I do not even think about it and I have every intention to continue to do so,” Mark explained.  To further demonstrate their support and appreciation for Clarkson, Mark and Susan decided to include Clarkson in their will.  Upon their deaths Clarkson will receive an unrestricted distribution from their estate so the donation can be directed to the University’s greatest need at the time it is received.  The Spivacks’ bequest will also count towards the Class of 1962’s 50th reunion fundraising effort. 

“My Clarkson chemical engineering education provided an excellent foundation for me to understand the wide range of technologies and markets in which my businesses were involved: Aerospace, electronics, personal care, mining and medical, to name a few.  I believe that led to having a leg up in the business world, being able to communicate with technologists, marketers and finance people in both my own company and our customers’.  I’ve always valued my Clarkson education … My time at Clarkson was a major stepping stone in life and I left very well prepared.”

It is clear Mark learned valuable life lessons and skills during his time in Potsdam.  The Spivacks’ generosity will help to ensure that future Golden Knights have the same opportunity.