Big Brothers Big Sisters interim director brings wealth of skills
PRESCOTT – Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters’ interim CEO Nick Mork isn’t shy about his passion for the organization he’s been a part of for more than four decades.
He tears up when he relates how he became executive director of Big Brothers of Sedgewick County in Wichita, Kansas.
A native Kansan, Mork was nearly drummed out of Wichita State University for his student activism. But shortly after graduating in 1971, that kind radicalism was exactly what the local mentoring organization needed to reform itself.
The board president shared a letter from the mother of a boy whose mentors had twice failed their responsibilities.
The boy’s mother detailed the excitement the boy had in anticipation of seeing his Big Brother, and his devastation when his mentor didn’t show up.
“I never share that story without getting emotional,” he said.
The board president in Wichita asked if he could do anything to help. “I sure wanted to try,” Mork said.
The job offered a starting annual salary of $6,000 – about $35,000 in 2016 dollars.
But there was a catch: the Sedgwick County nonprofit had no money – as the only employee, he was going to have to court donors before he received a check.
By the time he left in 2005, the organization had grown statewide and changed its name to Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters. With a budget of $5.5 million and a staff of 140, it was the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in the country.
Through it all, he said he always focused on the individual impact the organization makes.
“It’s such a simple concept: You have an adult helping a child or a family taking on an extra kid,” he said. “When that happens, you make two people’s lives better.”
From Kansas, he went briefly to Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Mexico before signing on with Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters to spearhead a capital campaign, all the while bouncing back to his home in Wichita.
After his wife, Marilyn, died in 2013, he decided to officially become an Arizonan.
Though his friends in Kansas still rib him for leaving, Mork said he had longed to leave the state for many years.
“I always told my wife I’m going to retire in the Southwest,” he said.
He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 2014, commuting weekly to teach fundraising and resource development.
“I decided I wanted to make Prescott home,” he said. “This is more my style.”
Mork became a board member for Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters just ahead of the March 28 resignation of Christine Clouse, who had replaced longtime leader Kathleen Murphy in July.
“I got to be on the board for two days before I took a leave of absence to be the interim CEO,” he said.
Mork had high praise for the Prescott-based youth mentoring nonprofit.
“If you look at per capita, in every measure, this organization is at the top,” he said, attributing that to its board and previous leadership.
He said his priorities are to keep that momentum moving as he and the board find his replacement.
“The organization will conduct a thorough national, statewide and local search,” he said, adding his desire to find someone within the organization or local community to fill that role.