Bingham fund will benefit Berkeley leaders

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs


mark bingham

Mark Bingham, ’93.

30 January 2002 | On the night of Sept. 11, 2001, Larry Batina was inundated with e-mail messages from fellow Cal alumni and Chi Psi fraternity brothers, all anxious about the identity of the Mark Bingham who had perished that morning on United Airlines Flight 93. Was he the same Mark Bingham who had graduated in Berkeley’s class of ’93? And was he the Cal rugby star who had been a Chi Psi president?

Batina,’74, one of Bingham’s best friends, was horrified when he learned that, in fact, the worst was true.

“I had seen him at a football game, a frat pre-game party, about a year ago, right before he moved to New York,” said Batina, a certified public account and business executive in Southern California. “I wished him good luck in New York. That was the last time I ever saw him.”

After the initial shock and disbelief at Bingham’s death, Batina and his fraternity brothers began kicking around ideas for a memorial fund, “something that would honor Mark’s memory and last a long time,” he said.

Right away, they came up with a name — the Mark Bingham Leadership Fund.

“We didn’t want to call it a ‘memorial fund’ because Mark was a leader, he always brought people together and he spearheaded things,” said Todd Sarner, a friend of Bingham’s since their days at Los Gatos High School. “He was such a positive force in a lot of people’s live.... So we decided to call it a leadership fund, because it was more proactive.”

Endowment fund launched
The Mark Bingham Leadership Fund was established in October 2001 to reward a Berkeley student who shared Bingham’s qualities — leadership, teamwork and “sociability” — with tuition, housing and book expenses for one year.

“This was my way of saying, ‘We will never forget,’” said Batina. “His tragic death has changed our lives and we will learn from it.”

Bingham was one of 44 passengers onboard the hijacked Newark-to-San Francisco flight that crashed Sept. 11 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Federal investigators believe that hijackers intended to fly the plane into Camp David or the White House, but that Bingham and several other passengers overtook the terrorists and foiled the attempt.

An outgoing, take-charge individual, Bingham, 31, had graduated from Berkeley in 1993, earning a degree in social sciences with an emphasis in international relations. He was the chief executive officer of the Bingham Group, a public relations firm serving the high-tech industry. He divided his time between San Francisco and New York City, where his company’s offices were located.

In the three months since his death, the Mark Bingham Leadership Fund has raised more than $20,000. Managers of the endowment — a handful of Bingham’s closest friends, along with his mother, Alice Hoglan — expect to be ready to award the first Berkeley recipient with one year’s tuition and fees, housing and book expenses by this fall or spring 2003. As the endowment grows over time, they hope to support more students who want to make a difference in the world.

The fund is administered by the California Community Foundation, a public charity specializing in endowments and headquartered in downtown Los Angeles. Tax-deductible contributions to the Bingham fund can be made by mail or through the Mark Bignham web site, Donors may also make gifts of shares of stocks, bonds or real estate.

‘Bittersweet’ journey
Sarner, a San Francisco therapist, has found some measure of comfort in helping to launch the Bingham fund. But he calls the whole experience — from Sept. 11 to his current fundraising work — a “bittersweet” journey.

“The bitter part is that I’ve never really lost someone so close in my life, and I thought of him like my brother. I still don’t totally realize that he’s gone,” Sarner said. “The sweet part is that it’s been really heartening to see how people have responded to Mark’s death. We’ve had people who never even knew him donating to the fund. One gentleman from New York who didn’t know him donated $5,000.”

Fund supporters are seeking individual contributions and support from corporations and entertainers. They are looking for a small San Francisco venue for a fundraiser to be held in March or April. Alice Hoglan, Bingham’s mother, hopes that the spring benefit will keep her son’s memory alive and encourage talented young Berkeley students with leadership interests to pursue their dreams.

“I am so pleased that Mark’s friends loved him enough to devote their time and effort to the leadership fund,” Hoglan said recently from her home in Los Gatos. “The Mark Bingham Leadership Fund couldn’t be a more appropriate way to honor his memory and to help deserving young students attend the finest university in the world.”


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