‘Mark Around the World’ kicks off Monday morning
Monday we’ll launch a experiment: Mark Jurkevich, my long-time friend, will begin regular posts on this blog. The theme is global affairs. They will appear as the daily opener most Mondays and Wednesdays. They’ll be headlined “Mark Around the World” with a subhed for the topic du jour. (You’ve probably already read some of his less-than-regular guest posts that have appeared here).
Here’s a brief introduction: Mark and I go way back — we both grew up in Annapolis. We met as school kids at a Baltimore Colts game, via mutual friends. The friendship grew when we were both students at University of Maryland, College Park. I was an English major and he was a Computer Science major who dabbled in the Russian Department.
One of Mark’s favorite college stories is about the only English course he took. Days before beginning his last semester, the Dean of Russian Department advised him that he could also qualify for a second degree in Russian, if he signed up for several extra courses. One requirement was any English course (Mark had taken none because he tested out of English based on his SAT score). Unfortunately, the only class with available space by then was senior-year course – Persuasive Writing.
At the end of the semester, each student had to submit one “pro” essay and one “con” essay. The authors’ names were replaced by coded numbers and the English Department faculty then reviewed the anonymous essays, voted on the best, and read them to the students gathered in an auditorium.
As they read the winning “con” essay – a radical anti-abortion piece (the term “pro-life” came later), Mark broke into a sweat and started turning red. It was his, and he was called to the stage. Many of his fellow students looked on in shock. They were incredulous that Mark held such beliefs. (If you knew him well back then, you would not have believed it either). Others booed.
Then, the faculty began reading the winning “pro” essay. It was a pro-choice piece. Mark began to breathe easier – that one was also his!
To write them he drew on amazing sales skills he possessed even way back then. Russian? Computer Science? Hah! Everyone who knew Mark considered him the most “natural” salesman they’d ever met. He could sell sugar to diabetics.
After graduating, Mark got a job in the tech industry, and his name is on a bunch of patents. Then he moved into the commercial side of international business. He tried to entice me into a technical writing job at his first employer. It was good money but I declined and went into journalism instead. That was in 1984. Isn’t it ironic that I have now enticed him to be a regular contributor to my blog?
Mark splits his time between U.S. and Poland. Currently he is living in Warsaw, Poland with his wife and son. In addition to English, he’s fluent in Russian and Polish.