Alumnus Mark Rusch, '75 puts a lot of stock into the Lasallian, faith-filled education he received while attending De La Salle. He fully embodies and embraces the school's motto, Builders of Boys. Makers of Men., and has lived his life doing just that.
He admits that the teachings of the Christian Brothers at De La Salle and his experiences at the all-boys college preparatory school helped build him into the man he is today. Additionally, he’s now committed to ensuring that present DLS students have the same rewarding experience.
One way in which he's displayed that commitment is through pledging a $1 million gift to his alma mater.
Rusch had known for some time that he wanted to give back to De La Salle but initially didn’t know when to do it. However, after thoughtful consideration and through consulting with his wife Mary Ann, he decided that this was the right time to make such a contribution to the school that he deeply loves.
“Our philosophy, to put it bluntly, was - why wait until you’re dead. They could use the money now to do good things,” Rusch said. “You know, I’m giving money to De La Salle unencumbered. So, I told the school to do whatever it wanted with the money, other than using it for operating expenses. I wanted it to make a difference in somebody’s life and now, rather than in 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Subsequently, the current students will have a chance to become great men of the Collegiate and great men in their respective communities.”
He was inspired to give by his own experiences as a Pilot student, which included being a member of the school’s Spanish club and being unable to go on the club’s senior trip to Spain because of a lack of money.
“You know, I said to (De La Salle Advancement Director) Greg (Esler), it doesn’t matter what you use the funds for. But, if there are some kids that can’t afford to pay for something, like a trip to Spain or to France as part of the French club, then maybe my gift can be used as seed money,” Rusch said. “For instance, if the student goes out and raises half the money for the trip, then De La Salle will cover the rest of the costs. So, I didn’t get the chance to do a lot of those things when I was that age, and I’m hoping however they use the money that it will help promote the school and maybe even help kids experience things that they otherwise could not afford.”
Rusch’s $1M gift is the third seven-figure donation in the 96-year history of De La Salle.
DLS Advancement Director Greg Esler was touched not only by Rusch’s generosity to the school but also by the way in which Rusch handled himself leading up to his donation.
“Mark Rusch is the humblest man I have ever met in my life. Mark and his wife Mary Ann wanted no recognition for their very generous gift. I mean none,” Esler said. “Winston Churchill had a great philosophy on life. He once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ Mark and Mary Ann have definitely made life much better for many Pilots for years to come.”
A portion of Rusch’s gift, which will solely be utilized to benefit the students of De La Salle, has been deployed to purchase three new buses for the school.
It marks the first time De La Salle has had its own buses in more than 10 years, and it's expected that the purchase will save the school over $100,000 annually in vehicle rental fees.
This new DLS-owned method of transportation will make it easier for students to get to school and to a variety of events, including field trips, service projects, religious retreats, and sporting events.
“I’m thrilled that De La Salle was able to get those buses to help the students and to hopefully bring other students that did not have a way to get to De La Salle or were previously considering somewhere else for high school,” Rusch said. “And, now they’ve got transportation and can make it here to De La Salle and experience the same kind of great education that I did.”
De La Salle Director of Operations Joe Gerardi, '86, views the buses as a "game-changer" for the school.
“I believe that the new buses are a game-changer on a number of levels,” Gerardi said. “They save us money in terms of rental fees, provide greater dependability, and offer options to families who might not otherwise be considering De La Salle. And finally, there’s the element of our students showing up at events in buses with the De La Salle name on them.”
Esler and Gerardi believe the buses will play a role in De La Salle being able to thrive for years to come, and ensuring that such is the case is of utmost importance to Rusch.
“I just hope to be able to, in a small way, contribute to De La Salle’s efforts to remain alive and thrive in the decades ahead,” Rusch said.
Rusch has long dedicated himself to a life of philanthropy and serving others, and as a result, is a Pilot in every sense of the word.
Undoubtedly, De La Salle is proud to call him one of its own.
Photo: (left to right) Joe Gerardi, Mark Rusch, Greg Esler in front of the new DLS buses.