May 1, 2019

Attorney Mark Vincent, founder of the Union R-XI Foundation, presenting at a meeting of the Frankilin County Commission.

Attorney Mark Vincent, a Union native, is the person most responsible for the formation of the 30-plus year-old Union R-XI School District Foundation.

While serving on the school district’s board of education in the 1980s, Vincent spearheaded the idea to create a tax-exempt charitable organization that existed solely to support the students, staff, and activities of the district.

Of course, we are all familiar with the results of his initial idea: a now-thriving foundation that presents tens of thousands of dollars annually to the district in the form of classroom grants and scholarships for graduating seniors. But the foundation has also been instrumental over its three decades of existence in designing and funding such projects as Stierberger Stadium and Track at the current Union High School campus, outfitting the new UHS theatre with lighting and sound equipment, and helping the district acquire property in east Union along Highway 50 for a new elementary school that will expand the capacities of all the Union school buildings.

While Vincent’s efforts in the mid-1980s to form the organization have received little of the acclaim they deserve, his initial vision has grown into one of the most successful and influential public education charities in the state, perhaps even the nation. Because there were, at most, very few (or nearly no) such groups with IRS tax-exempt status in the country at the time, Vincent was literally on his own in trying to determine a path forward. With the support of the district board of education, he began a two-year odyssey of state incorporation, IRS application, multiple letters back-and-forth with several IRS officials, eventual summary acceptance, more letters requiring various hoops jumped, and eventual final determination of official public charity status in June 1987.

In a recent interview, Vincent said the process was often disheartening and even off-putting, but he knew he was on the cutting edge of something great and necessary.

Great and necessary, indeed.

By keeping his nose to the grindstone 33 years ago, Vincent paved the way for hundreds of Missouri education foundations (and even more nationally) to receive the all-important distinction of “501(c)3 public charity” for such groups. Dozens of Missouri foundations can directly trace their origins to the model of the Union foundation and Vincent’s struggle to make it a reality from 1985 through 1987.

Vincent says his greatest success with the Foundation was assembling the new board. A forward-thinking, proactive team if ever there was one, the group’s membership also included Vincent, who served as an assistant to the Secretary for two years until his term ran out. Modeling exemplary stewardship, he only served the one partial term at the organization’s founding and then stepped aside to allow someone new to serve. He did, however, remain the Foundation’s registered legal agent for the first 21 years of its life, handing those reins to Jim Strubberg in 2007.

His inspiration and will power are attributed by himself to his strong educational background at Union High School and beyond. A 1970 graduate, Mark was the first Unionian to attend and graduate (in 1974) from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduating from the Military Academy, he served five years in the U. S. Army, initially as a 2nd Lieutenant in Infantry. Vincent earned the Meritory Service Medal and Expert Infantryman and Airborne badges, serving as a Platoon Leader, Infantry Company Executive Officer, Mechanized Infantry Battalion Supply and Personnel Officer, and lastly as an Infantry Brigade Adjutant. After his military service, Vincent attended St. Louis University School of Law.

Mark married Susan Peters on May 14, 1977, and they had three children: Emily, Lydia, and Pete. Emily is an attorney and Lydia is a nurse practitioner; they both reside in Dallas. Pete is also an attorney and lives in St. Louis. Vincent confided that one of his proudest accomplishments is helping Susan raise three high school valedictorians, a further testament to his love for and commitment to the education and encouragement of young people. Mark prides himself on saying that the Vincent family is proof that nerds can be fun.

While it is easy to think of Mark Vincent mainly as the founder of the Union R-XI Foundation, he has had his hand in so many other worthwhile projects. While continuing his private law practice (which, even in retirement, he maintains), he served 25 years as the Union city attorney, 15 years as the Owensville city attorney, and 27 years as Franklin County Counselor. During that time, he has had a major impact on developing the Union industrial park, drafting the Constitutional amendment to classify Franklin County as a first class county, helping to form Patients First in Washington, assisting Andrea Rau and Bob Zick with creating WINGS (the Washington school district education foundation, based on the R-XI Foundation model), and getting legislation passed to create the Franklin County Municipal Court in 2012.

When asked what he is most proud of as he reminisces about his career and life, Vincent is quick to respond, “My family life, my church life, and my work recognizing disabled veterans.” He was instrumental in having a plaque dedicated to Purple Heart recipients from Franklin County installed at the County Courthouse in Union and took the lead in developing Union’s Veterans’ Memorial Park, the only facility of its kind in Missouri.

We here at the Union R-XI Foundation would like to add another significant accomplishment to that list – Mark Vincent has indelibly etched his name in history as the person who blazed the trail for the development of contemporary, community-based, tax-exempt public school charities in the state and nation.

Congratulations, Mark, on a job well done and hard fought. And thank you for your many years and facets of service.

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