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Foundation hires new president

Foundation hires new president

LAKELAND — He’s been a junior officer on a nuclear submarine, a financial analyst with IBM and a local church pastor. Now Rev. Mark Becker will take the helm of the Florida United Methodist Foundation as its president, effective March 1.

Becker will continue until then as senior pastor at Saint Paul’s UMC, Tallahassee, while Scott Davidson remains as the foundation’s interim president.

Becker said his varied professional experience is “all part of the whole” in what he brings to the position.

“I bring leadership experience from my time in the Navy. I bring management and financial experience from my time at IBM,” he said. “I have a lot of operational experience with budgeting and financial planning.”

Coupled with that, he said, are the relationships he has built during his 14 years as a Florida Conference pastor and insights gained through his work as a former chairman and member of the foundation board.

Rev. Mark Becker

“All that said, the foundation has a wonderful staff of very, very competent people,” Becker said. “So any shortcomings I have, I know they are more than up to the task to do what we need to do collectively.”

Rev. Dr. Dennis Vlassis, chairman of the foundation board, said Becker will provide strong leadership for an already strong team.

“As a board member of the foundation, Mark has displayed not only a clear calling to the ministry of the conference, but also a sharp business intellect that has allowed him to grasp the diverse financial aspects of the foundation,” Vlassis said.

“He was instrumental in helping us develop our long-term strategic plan and does not hesitate to ask hard questions that challenge us to strive to be better servants of the Kingdom of God. I am looking forward to his leadership of the foundation.”

Becker said his journey to ministry “was a long process.”

He began his professional career in 1977 as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and a junior officer leading several divisions in the submarine force. He went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and worked at IBM for 11 years in financial planning, new product pricing and worldwide revenue forecasting, both in management and staff positions.

Becker said he first began to sense a call to ministry while serving as an active lay speaker in his local church.

“I thought I could serve well in that capacity,” he said. “I was working in a good job. … But through time and prodding and through the comments of people I know and trust, it became clear to me that where God was calling me was into ordained ministry.”

Becker accepted that call and graduated with a Master of Divinity from Duke University in Durham, N.C. He was commissioned a probationary elder in the Florida Conference in 2001 and ordained an elder in full connection in 2004. Since then, he has served at Archer UMC; Trinity UMC, Gainesville; and Orange Park UMC. In his current appointment at Saint Paul’s, Becker has been overseeing long-range planning for the 1,900-membership church, while managing a staff of 12 and a budget of $1 million.

He said he’s honored to serve as president of such a “vitally important” mission.

“I have been sitting on the (foundation) board of directors for six years so I have seen it at work, and I’m just very proud of what it does and want to see it continue and grow,” Becker said.

To that end, Becker said he’ll work to improve the foundation’s visibility, first by doing “a lot of visiting.” He also hopes to increase the number of churches the foundation serves.

“Church size does not matter,” he said. “Smaller, rural churches can benefit just as much as the large, urban churches with significant endowments. I think it’s important for all of us that the message and the foundation’s services be made available for all of the Methodist churches and institutions in Florida.”

Another focus — highlighted in the foundation’s strategic plan — is increasing name recognition and awareness of the agency’s mission, something the organization already began with its new logo and rebranding last year.

“We have to be creative and willing to work with our customers, but I think the biggest challenge is how we tell our story so people know who we are and understand what we provide,” he said.

Another emphasis Becker listed is strengthening the foundation’s structure. 

“We have just completed a special study on the foundation’s organization and how we can become better about meeting our customers’ needs, as well as furthering our goals,” he said. “Along with the communications, I think the internal staffing and structuring is going to be very important.”

Becker said he also would like to improve an already strong relationship and partnership with the annual conference.

“I look forward to working with Bishop (Ken) Carter and the cabinet and the foundation’s board of directors on ways we can improve that and expand it,” he said.

Becker and his wife, Marie, a senior medical writer for a company headquartered in Atlanta, have two daughters: Meredith Edmonson, who lives in Cupertino, Calif., with her husband, D.J., and Marian, a junior at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

-- Tita Parham is a freelance writer and editor based in Apopka.