2022 will be a time of transition for the Florida United Methodist Foundation. This month, the foundation’s board of directors began its search for a new president.
The Rev. Mark Becker, who joined the foundation’s board in 2009 and became its president in 2015, announced his plans to retire at the foundation’s fourth quarter board meeting last year.
Becker said the decision aligns with “long-term personal goals.”
“I am 66 now, and I have always said that my goal is to retire by 67,” he said. “I want to be healthy and be able to enjoy retirement with my family.”
Becker and his wife, Marie, will eventually move to the Atlanta area to be near their two daughters and grandson. The plan, Becker said, is to “enjoy being close to family and do some volunteering, and perhaps a bit of traveling and writing. We are looking forward to an active retirement.”
In his letter to the board, Becker said he will continue as president until Dec. 31 or his successor is found, whichever occurs first.
Board member Jane Zody is leading the search committee, which held its first meeting in early January. Don Selvage of SHR Human Resources of Lakeland will consult with the committee as it embarks on what is expected to be a national search.
“On behalf of the Florida United Methodist Foundation board of directors, I would like to personally thank Mark for his outstanding leadership,” said Dan Hager, the board’s chairperson. “As president, Mark navigated through many challenging times and always kept the mission of the foundation a priority.”
From submarines to ministry
Becker’s journey to his current role was a circuitous one. A native of Sacramento, California, he came east when he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
He served in the Navy for five years and logged sea duty aboard Navy submarines headquartered at bases in New London, Connecticut, and Charleston, South Carolina.
While he enjoyed military service, he says he began to understand how difficult long separations could be for families. When he completed his military obligation, he decided to go back to school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to earn a master’s in business administration.
While at Cornell, he met Marie, whom he calls “the looks and brains” of the family. She was earning a doctorate in genetics in preparation for a career in medical writing.
The family lived in New York and Austin, Texas, while Becker worked 11 years as a financial analyst for IBM. Ultimately, the demands of corporate life on family life began to concern Becker.
“(Mark) seamlessly blended the board, staff, Florida Conference and Florida Conference churches to encourage unity and focus with his friendly, laid-back personality. … His legacy and dedication will continue for years to come.” — Dan Hager, foundation board chairperson
“I began to think about making another career shift,” he said. “We have always loved the church and been drawn to it, so this time, with the encouragement of my pastor and others, I shifted entirely and went into the ministry.”
Becker was accepted at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, and having married a Floridian, decided to join the Florida Conference. Prior to becoming the foundation’s president, he served at Archer United Methodist Church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Orange Park United Methodist Church and Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church in Tallahassee.
When the opportunity to lead the foundation became available, Becker felt the position would enable him to blend his primary skills and interests: a love of ministry and a mastery of finance.
“I realized that my two career paths, as diverse as they were, would merge in this job,” he said. “I had the required background and qualifications, and I received strong support from my colleagues on the board.”
Hager agrees. “(Mark) seamlessly blended the board, staff, Florida Conference and Florida Conference churches to encourage unity and focus with his friendly, laid-back personality,” Hager said.
Under Becker’s leadership, the foundation has logged important milestones:
- Contributing $1 million to the Passing the Torch Fund, a five-year partnership launched with the Florida Conference in 2015 to provide resources to new and seasoned clergy. The fund helped new pastors retire their student debt, provided training in personal and church financial leadership, awarded scholarships to seminary students of color and culture, and gave renewal leave grants to active clergy.
- Establishing Fresh Start, a program providing low-interest debt consolidation loans to clergy, many of whom have called the program “life changing.”
- Granting $100,000 through the Future Generations Fund to Campus to City Wesley Foundation of Northeast Florida Inc. to establish the Wellness Project, a pilot program to provide mental health resources to students, campus ministers and other adult leaders who work with college students. The program launched at Campus to City Wesley Foundation, but the goal is to implement it on college campuses across the state.
- Receiving fiduciary certification through the Center for Fiduciary Excellence. The foundation has always practiced the principles of solid fiduciary management, but it received certification after undergoing an audit of its financial practices.
- Modifying its articles of incorporation to include all religious groups that express a Wesleyan understanding of “abundant grace” as part of its client base, expanding its ministry.
“The foundation does great work, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of it,” Becker said. “I expect to see continued growth, particularly in our loan and educational programs.
“I think the future of the foundation is strong — there is a strong work ethic here and a strong commitment to ministry. As long as we stick to those values, we can look forward to a very bright future.”
Hager says Becker will be greatly missed. “His legacy and dedication will continue for years to come,” Hager said. “Thanks to Mark for everything he has done.”