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Yaggy Society Member Joins GBMC Keelty Society

September 21, 2020
By day, Mark Harris is an emergency manager for the Maryland Department of Transportation, coordinating response and recovery related to natural and man-made disasters and special events. Through his philanthropy, he makes sure clinical staff at GBMC have the tools they need to weather their own storms.

Mark had become well-acquainted with GBMC through patient experiences and personal friends by the time he attended an event in October 2019 that announced GBMC’s plans for new construction on the Towson campus. As he walked through the event, speaking with hospital staff, senior physicians and other loyal supporters, marveling at the renderings of the future GBMC, he thought back to his own experience, visiting his late wife, Fran, during her many inpatient stays.

"A lot of the rooms in the older part of the hospital are small and they're just not good for the way people do medicine now, and to include visitors," Mark said. "The room Fran was in one time – I stayed there a good bit of the time – and there wasn't space to open up the recliner to stretch out. The way they are redoing the rooms will make it so much more comfortable for the patients and families, and easier for all the medical staff to take care of patients."

That night, Mark reflected on the impact the event had on him. He decided, then, to help in any way he could. Five days later, he hand-delivered a check to support GBMC’s The Promise Project.

"It's going to be a great addition to the hospital," Mark said, "and the way everything is going to be laid out is going to be a good model for other hospitals to follow as they remodel or add new wings. The plans fit in with the whole philosophy of care at GBMC."

Fran was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2017. Through her 16-month treatment and subsequent stays at GBMC, both Mark and his wife of more than 41 years appreciated the caring atmosphere of the staff as well as the quality of care.

"What I like at GBMC is the philosophy," Mark said. "It’s on the marketing materials and in the ads, which is great, but you actually experience it when you're in the hospital. Even if you're just walking in the hallway from the parking lot to your doctor's office, it’s just a different atmosphere than most hospitals. It's a whole different attitude. And then, when you get into the clinics and the units as an inpatient, it’s a philosophy and an attitude that pervades the whole hospital. I want to see it expand with the improved rooms for patient care that will come out of The Promise Project."

An investment in GBMC is truly an investment in their community. Fran was born and raised in Ruxton. Mark was born in Aberdeen, MD, and though he traveled extensively as a self-proclaimed, "army brat," he ultimately ended up back in Baltimore, making a home in Timonium with Fran after the two met, in the mid-1970s, as students at what was then Towson State College.

Their commitment to the neighborhood is central to their involvement – from their philanthropy at GBMC, leadership in the Timonium Optimist Club, Optimist International, and Fran's service on the Baltimore County School Board, as director of the Baltimore County Police and Community Relations Council and as president of a local youth services bureau.

In true emergency-planner fashion, Mark has covered all bases. In addition to his current gift to The Promise Project, Mark recently added a significant provision for GBMC to his estate plans. He will give the remainder of his IRA to GBMC to establish the perpetual Fran and Mark Harris Cancer Research Fund. Mark also continues his annual giving to support immediate fundraising priorities, including GBMC’s SAFE program.

"Loyal benefactors like Fran and Mark Harris have been the hallmark of GBMC, since before we opened our doors in 1965," GBMC's Senior Director of Principal Gifts, John Jeppi said. "We are thrilled to welcome these wonderful Elizabeth Yaggy Society members into GBMC’s Keelty Society!"

Fran’s and Mark's gifts will continue to impact GBMC staff, patients and families for years to come.
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