my alumni experience

Following Through on a Childhood Fantasy

Firefighter Mark Macenas '98

“I'm living my dream.” That's the way Mark Macenas describes his life. His Colby-Sawyer experiences, his friends, and his wife, Hilary, have all played a part in helping him to achieve that rarefied status.

Mark followed his brother, Erik '94, to Colby-Sawyer. “I loved it the first time I went to visit him,” Mark remembers. Mark enjoyed living in Page Hall and London House, and fondly remembers “walking back from the cafeteria after dinner with friends across the quad to spend the rest of my evening in the studio slinging paint or throwing pottery on the wheel in the basement.”

Studio art was Mark's major. He credits Professors Martha Andrea, John Bott and Jon Keenan as not only inspiring his work, but also for helping him become the person he is today. “These fine individuals all played a part in the path I have chosen to walk today. I still sit and ask myself what they would say when critiquing my work, even now, after eight years of separation.”

Following his graduation from Colby-Sawyer, a career in art seemed natural. Mark taught at the New Hampshire Institute of Art for a semester. He then created legal exhibits for a company that specialized in graphic design for attorneys, first in Florida and then in North Carolina. When Mark met the “love of his life,” Hilary, and they married in 2003, Mark's life took a turn, as he describes it, “for the better.”

Mark decided to follow a completely different career path, but it was one he'd been considering for years. “Most young men dream about fire trucks and being a firefighter. I finally decided to follow through with that childhood fantasy.”

His Colby-Sawyer degree still provided him the right foundation. “In the fire department, you have to have a college degree to be a captain of an engine or ladder company. I tried out for the fire academy in Durham, North Carolina I spent four of the longest months of my life in the academy and graduated in August of 2001, just weeks before the September 11th attacks. I've been in the fire service now for five years. My life has now changed forever. I love what I do and would not trade it for anything in the world.”

A typical day for Mark is a full 24- hour shift at the firehouse. When he's not there, he works part-time as an EMT on an ambulance in Raleigh.

Art remains a passion for Mark, despite his busy work life. He has had several showings in the Raleigh, N.C., area, and is an active board member of the Franklin County Arts Council. When asked how he balances his art with his other responsibilities, Mark has an unexpected reply. “My art has begun to both balance and unbalance me. I no longer really have control of it. When I envision something, I sketch it, and when I get home, I hit the studio as often as time allows.”

Mark and Hilary Macenas (who works for the largest newspaper —The News & Observer—in the Raleigh/Durham triangle area) own a home in the country, in the small town of Youngsville, which is due east of Durham. Loving their jobs, enjoying their home and the area, Mark and Hilary seem busy and fulfilled. Mark credits Colby-Sawyer with paving the way for his current happy state.

“College for me was the start of what happened when 'real life' began.” In Mark's case, his message bears repeating…he's living his dream. We should all be so lucky.

-Gaye LaCasce