2006 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Mark Conner

Wyandotte High School, 1972

Mark ConnerTeachers have positively influenced Mark Conner his entire life.

They have served as role models, mentors, friends and family, and he is grateful and touched by their integrity and generosity.

Growing up in the Kansas City, Kansas School District, Conner faced the biggest obstacle of his life at the age of eight, when his father died. His grief coupled with the continual relocations of his family, began to show in his school work. During his elementary years, he attended nine different schools.

The turning point came when his baseball coach told him he had to make good grades to play baseball. The advice served him well, and he began to thrive.

He continued to be positively impacted by adults in his life throughout junior high and high school. At Central Junior High, Don Duteau, his woodworking teacher, served as his mentor. At Wyandotte High, basketball coaches Donald Upson and Bill Young gave him constant guidance. Under their direction, Conner became the athletic trainer and manager of the basketball team, and he went on to serve in the same position at KCK Community College, under another respected educator and coach, Walt Shublom (a former Wyandotte coach).

In 1973, Conner entered the Marine Corps as an "officer candidate" and launched a 26-year career with the military. His professionalism and leadership earned him a Joint Meritorious Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal, a Joint Commendation Medal, a Navy Commendation Medal and a National Defense Medal.

His contact with Young continues to this day. He considers him a second Dad. And he literally became a part of Upson's family when he married his daughter, Becky. Though deceased, Upson remains in his thoughts daily.

"You couldn't find a better person," Conner said.

Today, retired from the military, he owns and manages his own house painting business. He has a strong work ethic and is giving to others around him, including youth whom he mentors.

He wants today's student to develop and maintain a serious work ethic because he believes it will carry them far in times of adversity.