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OBITUARY: The college loses an advocate, Milton Marks, 1959-2012

By Sara Bloomberg
The Guardsman


Milton Marks twitter profile picture, August 9, 2012. Photo by Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

After nearly twelve years of service to City College of San Francisco, college board member Milton Marks III died yesterday after suffering from declining health for the past couple of years. He was 52 years old.


A native San Franciscan, he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were also elected officials.


He is survived by his wife Abigail, their three young sons, his brother David Marks and his sister Caro Marks.


Milton Marks with his family. Courtesy of MiltonMarks.com, Photo by Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal


“(He was passionate about) taking the city as it was and making it more beautiful,” his wife said, as she talked about her husband’s work at the school and in the greater Bay Area. “(Working on) the board was an intersection of bringing people together and doing something that was good for the planet and good for the community.”


Milton was elected to the board in 2000 and served as president for two years until doctors discovered a brain tumor after he suffered a seizure in December 2010. After recovering, he went right back to work as a member of the board.


“He cared very much for City College, and continued to work at the board through his illness because it was so important to him,” Academic Senate President Karen Saginor said.


He not only cared deeply about education and environmental stewardship, but was passionate about standing up for the greater good.


“I will always remember him as a champion of the public interest, fighting for what’s right and true and honest,” Board President John Rizzo said.


After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for his brain tumor, he spoke out against the dangers of cell phone use — which, according to an SF Chronicle story from 2011, Milton believed may have caused the tumor.


“I find it strange that people are so afraid of the cell-phone industry that they don’t stick up for what’s right,” Milton told the Chronicle.


Milton Marks (left). Photo by Luke Thomas courtesy of citycollegesf.blogspot.com


He was also a driving force for transparency and environmental sustainability at City College, his wife said, and wanted to make the world more beautiful.


She laughed fondly as she recalled the large garage sale that Milton organized in 2009 to help raise funds for the school.


“He was so passionate about City College and its mission,” Abigail said.


Sometimes that meant he faced opposition.


“He was not deterred by the fact that some people at the college were not responsive to him,” fellow trustee Steve Ngo said. “He’s been trying to save city college” since he joined the board and advocated diligently for students to have a voice.


In the past, the student trustee spoke last during board discussions and, even though their vote is only advisory, Milton thought that should change.


“It was his idea to implement the custom to have the student trustee speak first, before the other trustees,” Ngo said. “To remind us it’s about them.”


Over the years, he also served as the executive director for organizations such as SF Friends of the Urban Forest, Urban Ecology and Kol Shofar, a Jewish synagogue in Marin.


A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 12 at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco. Donations in Milton’s honor can be made to Friends of the Urban Forest, Congregation Beth Sholom or the UCSF Neuro-oncology Caregiver Program for Brain Cancer.


Donations to the UCSF program should be made out to UCSF Foundation Caregiver B3052 and sent to Box 45339, San Francisco, Ca 94145


After the service and funeral, a traditional Jewish period of mourning called shiva will be observed through Friday, when the Sabbath begins at sundown.


Joe Fitzgerald contributed to this story.

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