Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Sauer.
Hi Mark, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Focused on a career in international finance with multinational corporations, I received an MBA from Columbia University in 1971. Over the next decade, I worked at three major corporations involved with international business. In the early 80’s a new opportunity took me to Anheuser Busch in St Louis. At that time Anheuser Busch owned the St Louis Cardinals (MLB), and I was fortunate enough to get involved with the team. After many years with the Cardinals, I was named Chief Operating Officer in 1988. After my tenure with the Cardinals, I went on to serve as President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) from 1991 to 1996. In 1996, I returned to St Louis to serve as President & CEO of the St. Louis Blues (NHL); a role I served in until my retirement in 2006.
My 20 plus years in senior management of professional sports franchises was a fun, demanding, exciting, and rewarding set of experiences. But in my late 50’s, I was determined to move to Florida, spend a lot of time on and in the ocean and, most importantly, fulfill my lifelong ambition to work directly with low-income minority students. Throughout my adult life, I had spent time and energy volunteering with various nonprofits involved with at risk kids. I wanted that field to become my focus and to do so I had to stop working in my previous profession. It was time to get serious and centered on a mission that most appealed to me.
In early 2007 I moved to Delray Beach, Florida, a racially diverse beach town 50 miles north of Miami. I became a substitute teacher at Village Academy, a unique kindergarten through 12th grade public school that had a primarily underserved student population. After becoming a certified teacher, I went on to become the basketball coach and athletic director at Village Academy. I was immersed in every aspect of Village Academy. When my days in a classroom came to an end in 2012, I decided to form a nonprofit (Delray Students First) focused on tutoring high school students after school on the ACT and SAT college admissions exams. That nonprofit was later renamed Bound For College as we expanded into a total of three public high schools within Delray Beach and adjacent Boynton Beach.
While the successes of our students make me very happy, I realize that I love the grind of their journeys and the excitement of the unknown outcomes. Just like we can look back on business careers and realize we loved such elements in retrospect, but perhaps not in the moments. I recommend such a sharp 90 degree turn in life to anyone approaching retirement. Get out of your comfort zone, the product of your working career, and go find something truly meaningful to do……capitalizing on the skill set built in your working years but using it toward a deserving portion of our society that you choose one that resonates with you. And don’t be distracted by accumulating the material late-in-life trophies that appeal to your associates. Nirvana is waiting for you, now figure it out and get busy. In Florida.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Becoming an effective teacher in a low-income school was the most difficult challenge of my adult life. There are countless obstacles each student must overcome; watching the resiliency of the students has become a never-ending wonderment for me. There have been numerous student and family crises that cause me heartache and sleepless nights. But the rewards are all worth it. My retirement gift to myself was leaving the world of professional sports team management and finally doing something truly worthwhile. In this mission, I have developed close friendships with teachers, volunteers, donors, fellow board members and, of course, students and now college graduates and professionals who form my extended family comprising my absolute best possible “retirement”.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
The mission of Bound For College is to provide college readiness resources to motivated underprivileged students, assisting them in their quest to reach their full potential. To achieve our mission, our dedicated teachers provide a comprehensive pipeline of college readiness resources, helping students to successfully navigate the educational landscape. We recognize that college readiness is critically important for students as they apply to post-secondary institutions and offer programming that not only cultivates the higher-order thinking skills required to endure the rigors of college but also removes the real and perceived barriers to enrollment and success. All at no cost to our students and their families!
For a decade, Bound For College (BFC) has engaged students in activities that have a significant impact on their aptitude, as well as their college preparedness, making them more competitive candidates for admittance in a post-secondary program. BFC’s College Readiness Program delivers ACT and SAT Prep that fills the achievement gap by providing tutoring that reinforces what students learn in school, targeting the knowledge and skills most essential for college. BFC’s College Readiness program also offers Enrichment Workshops which provide students with tailored information on postsecondary options, support with applications to colleges that match their academic abilities and preparation, and guidance through the financial aid process. Furthermore, BFC’s College Readiness program provides students multiple opportunities to participate in informative and inspirational College Tours, helping aspirations within higher education to take form.
Currently, we offer programming at three partners schools: Atlantic High School and Village Academy in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach Community High School in Boynton Beach.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Now 75, I am content these days. The students’ scholarships and college admissions earned as a result of Bound For College tutoring are a joy but come amidst heart-stopping tension awaiting the college and scholarship decisions. And, trust me, we celebrate the victories big-time with the kids and teachers. I am in and on the ocean every day, including sunrise paddleboard outings far from shore. And I found the ultimate Florida pirate’s treasure—Donna, my brilliant and beautiful wife since 2013, who was born and raised in Florida.
View the article on Voyage MIA Magazine’s website HERE