Mark Dunning ’84: His Family’s First College Grad

He’s played Pebble Beach … twice. St. Andrews and Whistling Straits are on his bucket list. Additionally, Mark Dunning ’84 can be proud of a career in human resources and industrial labor relations spanning more than 25 years. However, his greatest achievement is being the first person in his extended family to receive a college degree (and, ultimately, a graduate degree) and demonstrate the true value of higher education.

It was a year of transition … 1980. Reagan took office. John Lennon was shot and killed. The 1970s had come to a close, and the ‘80s were taking shape. The U.S. failed to release hostages in Iran, and Mount St. Helens erupted. It was a time of uncertainty nationally as well as in like the lives of those young men, like Mark Dunning ’84, stepping foot onto the Michigan campus as freshmen. Something soon would help create an environment of structure and purpose — Delta Chi.

“We shared in the camaraderie of having a committed group of friends — many of whom I knew would last a lifetime, a great house and a fun social schedule to balance with the hard work of getting through school,” Mark describes. “This was our first attempt at that young age to govern ourselves, build consensus, determine priorities and manage money. We were fortunate to have a place like Delta Chi to practice (and make mistakes) with important life skills. For most, it was the first time in our lives, and these skills are required in adulthood during everyday business and life.”

During Mark’s time in the house, there were approximately 20 brothers living in the house and a handful of outside brothers. He lived in the house for more than three years with roommates Stuart Popp ’83 and Scott Walls ’83. Rushes were successful, and they had a good system of committees and house volunteerism. As Mark recalls, the brothers routinely had water balloon and fireworks wars with Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu across the street. It helped to have several racks of empty Coke bottles from the basement vending machine; they lined up and launched barrages of bottle rockets for sustained periods.

“Our brotherhood included several smart guys in a wide range of disciplines — engineering, journalism, finance, liberal arts — all committed to succeeding,” Mark says. “Their stories from later life don’t surprise me; it was a very accomplished group. We have had a very supportive alumni group with Don Leckey ’67, Frank Morrey ’64 and others who also shared a long-term interest in protecting and improving the house.” Today, Mark stays in touch with Steve Hook ’82, Scott Walls, Stu Popp, Jim Fuger ’82, Andy McKewan ’84, Pat Barrie ’83, Russ Bauer ’85, Joe Burchill ’81, Wayne Nelson DDS ’89, Frank Morrey and Greg Roda ’83.

Following graduation, Mark took a position as a service representative at Manpower, Inc., in Atlanta. In 1986, he moved to Michigan to take an HR rep position with an engineering services company and began work on his master’s degree in industrial relations from Wayne State University. When his degree was completed in 1989, he began an 18-year run with Chrysler, serving in progressively responsible HR management roles including the senior manager of HR for three production sites and representing the company in three rounds of national negotiations with the UAW. In 2008, he became the senior director of HR for West Pharmaceutical Services in the Phoenix area and served in that capacity until February of 2015.

When he is not working, Mark enjoys golf and travel. He tries to play as many PGA Tour sites as possible. He has already marked Pebble Beach (CA), Doral (FL), Torrey Pines South (CA) and TPC-Scottsdale (AZ) off his bucket list, and he has played several notable courses in Hawaii and Arizona. His next goal? St. Andrews and Whistling Straits. Mark is also a member of the Arizona Manufacturing Partnership, a group of state employers attempting to change the image of manufacturing, and as a result, convince kids and their parents about the high pay and high reward of manufacturing jobs in Arizona.

As Mark reflects on advice he would have for his younger brothers, he draws from his experience as the first person in his extended family to graduate from college and set an example in utilizing the value of higher education to build a life. “My ability to find a fulfilling life within human resources is partially a result of my time at Delta Chi. I would encourage our younger brothers to make the most of their (and their parents’) investment in education. I would tell them to complete a BA and get a graduate degree as early as possible. Doing so gets harder as the years pass. Find friends, as I have, who will endure. Save as much money as possible, as early as possible, while making sure you have a good time with whatever fulfilling activity you choose.”

Brothers can connect with Mark on LinkedIn.