Super Senior: Mark Benz
LINCOLN, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s Tuesday morning in Lincoln and folks are meeting over coffee at Burnham Hall.
The Burnham Hall Committee members are working on keeping the 100-year-old building in top shape. They formed after a ferocious flood in June of 1998 that destroyed much of what was inside the hall, which then also served as the library.
Mark Benz was at the time a relative newcomer to the community. He and his wife Nancy had settled in the hills outside of the village. The couple made it their goal to help. Greg Orvis and Mark became fast friends. “He just fit right in, he was so supportive,” Orvis said.
Benz went to work on refurbishing Burnham Hall, the only brick building in town. The MIT grad helped pioneer the CAT scan, a medical device that lets doctors see inside the body. He had an idea to keep the water outside the hall, adding flood panels to cover the windows and doors. Benz secured money from FEMA for the project.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you get as much as saving a building as you did working on the CAT scan?
Mark Benz: Oh sure... Very similar problems... You have to understand how they work, why they work.
Benz went on to write a million dollars worth of grants for the building, which now sees a variety of uses, from 8th-grade graduations to town meetings.
He got some sage advice along the way from Fletcher and Hattie Brown, two well-respected town elders. Benz recalls the day Fletcher pulled him aside.”He’d stand up there and do this with his hand, pointing down to this village. ‘Mark, you don’t have to like everyone but you have to help everyone,’” Benz said.
So, Benz, with a doctorate from MIT, listened to Fletcher, a farmer with an 8th-grade education. They had tremendous respect for each other. “Oh, he had a life’s education,” Benz said. “I never met a person who said no to Hattie about anything.”
Both Fletcher and Hattie have passed on, and Benz continues to dedicate his time to the community. The regional director from FEMA was so impressed with his ability to write grants, he came up from Boston. “He said I want to meet Mark Benz because he has written the finest grant that we’ve ever received in our office,” Orvis said.
A plaque on the wall at Burnham Hall is dedicated to Benz’s hard work.
“You know, my self-image is pretty modest. I just had a life of doing good things with other people,” Benz said.
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