Fulfilling Dreams at Haverford
Describing himself first and foremost as an educator, Mark Shimoda '69 is also an accomplished periodontist, innovator, and investor. All of these roles factor into his thinking about Haverford and his estate plan to establish the Reverend Robert K. and Fumiko Shimoda Professorship in Religion. The satisfaction of making this planned gift honoring his parents on the occasion of his 50th Reunion inspires Mark to do even more.
Born on the island of Hawaii, Mark moved with his family to Massachusetts in 1952. His father had already earned master's degrees from both Columbia and Yale and was working toward his Ph.D. in theology at Harvard. "My father would have been a student his entire life. He loved the stimulation of academics, but he made his living as a minister. At some point in high school, I realized that my summer job as a factory machine operator yielded the equivalent of what he earned," Mark recalls.
While his father gave little thought to making money, his mother managed the household finances. She was a constant and welcoming presence who always greeted Mark and his sisters when they arrived home from school. Only when he was at Haverford did she train as a dental assistant and take a position working for an uncle whose influence on Mark's later career choice would be profound.
Mark first learned about Haverford from his father. Reverend Shimoda had been so favorably impressed by Quakers who protested Japanese-American internment camps during World War II that he steered his son toward Haverford. The College offered a scholarship that enabled Mark to attend. "I have wanted to pay Haverford back ever since," he says.
Mark credits Haverford with giving him a solid background in the liberal arts and notes the important role his classmates played in expanding his vision of life. Despite the comparatively small enrollment at the time, the variety of people was wide and he picked up little things from classmates and learned as much from them as he did in the classroom. Mark credits his Haverford experience with "preparing him for life."
He describes his career path as one he "stumbled" into, but it turned out to be the perfect field for him. The summer after graduating from Haverford he lived in Honolulu with his uncle, a general dentist who was building his practice. While this experience was formative, Mark gravitated toward teaching.
After Haverford, Mark worked as an algebra and science teacher, assistant dean, and wrestling coach. He relished the role of educator but realized that he would not be able to support a family on a teacher's salary. He decided to follow his uncle's example and enrolled at Temple University School of Dental Medicine. As it turned out, he "had the perfect amalgamation of traits." From his father, he had learned to appreciate biology, academics, and life. From his mother, he had developed discipline and common sense and understood the value of finance.
Mark remained in education after graduating from dental school, teaching at the University of Colorado School of Dentistry full-time for five years while also building a successful periodontal practice. Later, he shifted to practicing full-time while continuing to teach. He retired a year ago and now practices a half day a week. Throughout four decades of dental practice, Mark has remained committed to education—whether teaching dental students about innovative new modalities for treatment or advising patients about optimal dental hygiene.
The idea of endowing a professorship in honor of his parents energized Mark for years. When he learned from his financial advisor that he would be in a position to fulfill this dream, he shared that intention with his mother before her death in October 2018. (Mark's father passed away 15 years ago.) While Mark acknowledges that his mother would have been "embarrassed" to be recognized, he also wishes that she had lived to see him achieve what he set out to do long ago.
"I have had a deep appreciation for my experiences at Haverford and always wanted to acknowledge my parents. I am not in favor of leaving a large inheritance to individuals who may or may not use the funds well," Mark explains. "Instead," he continues, 'I believe that assets ought to be used in a way that is positive and lasting. By doing so through Haverford, I can benefit the College and its students. It is a way to repay Haverford for investing in me back in 1965. I want the bulk of my estate to go to Haverford."
These days Mark enjoys daily workouts that incorporate yoga, physical therapy, and weights. He travels frequently to pursue his passion for bicycling. He recently returned from a two-week trip to Maui and will soon head to Cuba and England for biking trips.
Looking ahead to his 50th Reunion, Mark acknowledges that he would enjoy catching up with classmates, but he also wants to experience Haverford "in action," when classes are in session. He would like to see the new Visual Culture, Arts, and Media academic space, where students are exposed to idea development and patents through the Haverford Innovations Program.
"I want the bulk of my estate to go to Haverford."
"My next hope," Mark continues, "is to grow my assets so that I can support another of my interests at Haverford—which is investments and impact investing." Were he to be a student today at Haverford, Mark imagines that he would explore classes related to finance. Mark maintains that this line of academic inquiry at Haverford holds promise for today's students and also for the future of Haverford itself. "When I return to campus, whether for reunion or a visit, it is not for reasons of nostalgia, but to look ahead. My relationship with Haverford continues and so do my dreams."