Mark Eller ’89

Mark EllerDEGREES: B.A. in English; M.A. in English literature, University of Maryland

JOB TITLE: Director of foundations and new business, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: So many Trinity memories … which is why I continue to socialize with a great group of friends from the Classes of ’88 and ’89. We’ve been getting together for an annual ski trip for close to two decades now. The usual suspects include Seth Goodwin ’89, Jonas Katkavich ’89, Eric Beatty ’88, Richard Diforio ’88, Chris Harges ’88, Amani Martin ’88, Mike Rorick ’88, and Pete Weiss ’88. The trip actually started in honor of Jay Herman Blum ’88, our Trinity friend who passed away way too soon.

What is the mission of Leave No Trace? The center’s mission is to protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly.

What do you do in your role with the organization? My focus is on development work—finding revenue streams that support our mission and encouraging new partners to invest in core programs. I work with family foundations, government grants, and like-minded businesses within the outdoor sports market and also in sectors like the tourism and automotive industries. It’s a medium-sized nonprofit, so I get to dabble in other areas too, like creating a citizen science program that allows people to contribute to the health of natural areas by collecting data that land managers can use to make informed decisions.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? The outdoor world has always been a source of inspiration for me, so it’s gratifying to work on projects that encourage people to think of themselves as stewards of the natural world.

What are the biggest challenges you face? You might have noticed that trails, rivers, and beaches all saw record visitation in recent years. Most people want to play a positive role when they’re outdoors, but they aren’t always aware of the simple protective measures they can enact. The center emphasizes the concept of cumulative impacts—it’s about taking individual actions that add up to benefit the environment.

How has COVID-19 impacted parks and natural areas? The pandemic forced many people to cancel their plans for air travel and destination-focused vacations. Pretty much everyone decided to scoop up some camping gear and head into the great outdoors. That’s good news in terms of peoples’ awareness of natural areas, but it also means that there are lots of folks trying new activities and a profound need for practical, easily understood advice.

How did your time at Trinity prepare you for the work you do? Throughout my professional life, the writing and critical-analysis skills that I was encouraged to develop at Trinity have been essential. I’ve worked as a magazine editor, a communications director, and now a nonprofit professional for more than 15 years. Each of those roles required studying complex issues and exploring solutions with cogent writing.

You participated in crew at Trinity. What lessons did you take from that experience into your life? Rowing at Trinity was a revelation to me. I played soccer and basketball through high school, but I’d never really gotten excited about racing sports. I discovered that it’s possible to put everything you have into an activity and receive even more, especially when you’re doing it alongside equally devoted teammates.

What was the most memorable course you took at Trinity? Why? My freshman seminar with Dirk A. Kuyk Jr.—who passed away just this year—was undoubtedly one of the best learning experiences of my life. I was intrigued by the “What Is Literature?” theme of that freshman seminar, and Professor Kuyk became my academic adviser. He favored short assignments, sometimes just one paragraph of analysis, but he always provided copious feedback and demanded precision.

What advice would you give to current Trinity students about making the most of their time at the college? Allow yourself to be truly inspired in the classroom, on the playing fields, and socially. There aren’t many other times in life when you will be offered such an array of stimulating pursuits and people, so find the ones that appeal to you and dig into them.