Mark and his family moved from Houston to Washington, D.C., in 1996, and he and I were able to get together shortly thereafter. Aside from less hair atop his head and a new moustache, Mark looked the same as ever, and his wonderful smile and laugh were fully intact. We had lunch and reminisced about our Williams days, the Ephlats and their/our epic spring break trip to Jamaica, the Glee Club and the inimitable Professor Robert Barrow, and about life in general. Both of us had loved Williams, and an Alumni Review photo from our graduation comes to mind. The librarian was going through the line collecting overdue fines:
Mark was excited about his new position as Vice President of Finance for George Washington University, and he delighted in showing me around his spacious new office. It was clear that his staff had quickly taken to him, and when the sad reality of his prostate cancer hit soon thereafter, they were quick to provide a sofa to lessen the pain that he was feeling in his bones.
Given the card that fate had dealt him, Mark showed amazing stoicism and courage, notably during his 50th birthday party, where his wife Sue, son David, and many friends gathered in their Bethesda, MD, home to celebrate and cheer him. Mark’s contagious laugh permeated the atmosphere, distracting all of us from what we knew was not far off.
In May 1997, after Mark’s illness had forced him to leave work permanently, the Ephlats got together for a reunion in Williamstown. We called him at home from one of our rooms at The Williams Inn and sang a few of our favorite songs, notably “My Lord, What a Morning” and the Rigoletto quartet parody. He later told me that he had recorded us and had listened to us every day for a month until his phone machine inadvertently erased the call.
When Mark eventually went into George Washington University Hospital, I visited him a couple of times and noted his predictably selfless, upbeat manner as he approached his own death. We talked about a lot of things, but Mark deflected anything that dwelt upon him. He felt proud and fulfilled for what he had achieved with the River Blindess Foundation and in his brief tenure with George Washington University. Far above this, however, was his deep love for his wife Sue and son David. They meant everything to him, and despite what awaited him, he felt like the luckiest guy in the world because of them.
In his 1993 25th Reunion biography, Mark had written, “Who knows where we will be in another five years? Our predictions have been wrong for the last 25.” Mark died in August 1997. A loving husband and father, a genuine and true friend to all who were ever in his company, and a Williams Class of 1968 member who elevated all of us by his presence amongst us.
– Bob Chambers (October 2019)