Mark Benjamin, president and CEO of Santa Monica-based Morley Builders, died on Sept. 29, 2013, in a tragic airplane accident that also took the life of his son Lucas Robert Benjamin and two other young lives.
Mark was born in San Francisco on May 6, 1950, and grew up in Southern California. He graduated from the University of California, Davis, where he earned a degree in management and economics. He joined the family construction business in 1972 as a carpenter apprentice, and gained hands-on experience. Under the stern and watchful eye of his father, Morley Benjamin, he began the transition to leadership at Morley Builders. In 1981, he became president and CEO, and along with the Morley Builders management team, helped shape the company into one of the nation’s 400 largest general contractors.
Mark embraced his father’s ideals, valuing integrity and trust as important to success as exemplary workmanship. He recognized that building strategies, technologies and tools are constantly changing while the straight-forward tenets of superior customer service and high-quality work performance remain unchanged. Mark appreciated the over 600 employees of Morley Builders who practice these commitments on a daily basis. Mark was much more than a typical executive to those who worked with him. He was a natural mentor, an engaged and considerate person, and a calm and knowledgeable guiding force.
Mark was a father of two boys, Matt and Luke. When Matt was born 31 years ago, Mark remarked that fatherhood had changed him; it wasn’t about him anymore. Mark built a warm and nurturing structure for his sons, sharing his love of nature, animals, science, travel, the heavens, hiking and skiing. From hikes in the local Santa Monica Mountains to trips into the Idaho wilderness or to Alaska, Mark demanded that Matt and Luke leave technology behind and embrace nature as it was intended to be experienced.
From this framework, Matt developed a love for the outdoors in Colorado and Idaho and Luke pursued his love of mountaineering. Mark also emphasized lifelong learning and educated Matt and Luke on the finer points of financial literacy as well as imparting fatherly advice on being courteous and respectful, staying curious and giving back to community. Matt absorbed Mark’s passion for astronomy, studied astrophysics in college and currently serves as the education program manager at the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Luke graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in construction management and worked with his father at Morley Builders as a senior project engineer. Mark had unending pride in the accomplished and compassionate young men his boys became.
Mark was generous with his time to his children and to other organizations, where he served in different capacities. Mark was a major community supporter and measured his worth, not by the accumulation of material things, but by the positive impact he had on the less fortunate. Mark took special interest in programs helping young people get to college as well as programs providing opportunities for kids to experience nature, while also working to protect habitats. He was a benefactor of the Santa Monica History Museum and a board member of the following: Idaho Conservation League, Yellowstone Association, Malibu Boys and Girls Club, American Council for Construction Education and the Human Relations Council of Santa Monica Bay. In addition, Mark was a past chair and board member of the following: Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Oversight Committee and Santa Monica Building & Safety Commission, as well as a past board member of: Santa Monica Area National Council for Community and Justice (NCCJ), NatureBridge, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce (vice-president), and Santa Monica -UCLA Hospital Board of Advisors.
Mark’s leadership at Morley Builders spearheaded the growth of the company that has built over 800 buildings in Southern California. Several of the more prominent projects are the Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels, the renovation of the Getty Villa Museum, the California Science Center Ecosystems and the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, the Santa Monica Library, and the seismic strengthening and restoration of UCLA’s historic Powell Library and Royce Hall. His guidance reflected a personal commitment to sustainability with the construction of the eco- friendly Morley Equipment Facility and LEED Gold headquarters in Santa Monica.
Mark’s generosity shone equally in and out of the workplace. His personal commitment to “The Morley Family” and his financial generosity to many communities will impact lives long into the future. His commitment toward the enjoyment of the outdoors combined with his enjoyment of lifelong learning, photography and aviation leave a legacy of a man with a thirst for knowledge and a love of the world, and the people in it.
Mark Benjamin is survived by his son Matt and Matt’s fiancée, Jessica Lisi. He also leaves a sister, Betsy, and her three children, Jennifer (husband Beau), Colin and Casey.
A memorial service will be held for Mark and Luke on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, at 3:30 p.m., with a reception following, at the California Science Center, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles. Contributions in honor of Mark’s memory can be made to: The Idaho Conservation League (www.idahoconservation.org), The Yellowstone Association (www.yellowstoneassociation.org) or The Boys and Girls Club of Malibu (www.malibuyouth.org). Please indicate “Mark Benjamin Memorial Gift”.