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Mark Parent '70 Has Become A One of a Kind Leader

By Kenneth Stratton '19 WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

In the early days of Western New England, it wasn’t uncommon to find a student on campus who was commuting, working and raising a family on top of their studies. However, not all can say that they reached the same level of success as Mark Parent ’70, who after years of hard work, became a CEO.

As a student, Parent was responsible for juggling many of life’s responsibilities at once. He married his first wife in 1968 during the junior year of his studies at Western New England, and together they lived in a third floor attic apartment. When he wasn’t on campus, he was working third shift stocking shelves for Shop Rite, 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

“More than once [I] fell asleep in class sitting in first row in advanced accounting,” Parent recalled. Even with an exhausting schedule, Parent engaged in campus life, albeit one with a different pace compared to life on campus today.

“The Campus Center was the center of life for us between classes,” Parent said. “Eating, studying and card playing were the main activities,” he explained, adding that sometimes games of pitch would be “interrupted” by those pesky classes. Parent was also in a fraternity, an element of life at Western New England that has been left in the past.

Parent thought back to an employment fair held in the spring of 1970, which proved vital to securing employment after graduation.

“I missed the notices on the dates for the fair and had to drive home late morning to change into my only suit to attend the interviews that day,” Parent explained. “I secured two follow up interviews, one with Maine Power the other with Lybrand Ross Bros (LRB&M),” he went on.

But it was LRB&M in Hartford, CT that took a chance on Parent. Starting off as a Staff B Accountant, he would be promoted to Staff A, and later earned Senior Accountant. Parent recalled working 15-hour days, 6-7 days a week, between October and April 15 each year. Over the next few years, Parent would change jobs.

In 1973, he left LRB&M to join United Engineers as Controller. In 1976, he joined Automatic Data Processing where he’d become Director of Operations. A few years more, and he was back at United Engineers. He started as General Manager of their Boston office, but by 1983, he’d work his way up to Vice President of Operations.

As Vice President, Parent was responsible for offices in Stamford, CT, Boston, MA and Springfield, MA, which included the technical placement of engineers and draftspersons on a temporary and permanent basis. Responsibilities in the Nashua, NH, Owego, NY and Burlington, VT offices included work with none other than IBM.

“Doing dedicated client facilities for IBM, we were responsible for the first level software & hardware support for all Northeast IBM personnel,” Parent explained. But by 1988, he’d move up the ranks again. This time, it would be his first go at CEO, and to Parent, the task was “daunting.”

“Taking over for my father, I was responsible for a company of over 500 people doing $70 million dollars in 2018 revenue,” Parent said of the job he faced upon becoming United Engineers CEO. His father passed away within one month of becoming CEO, compounding the difficulties he faced in those early days. But he overcame, eventually developing a concept of outsourcing design/drafting work with companies such as Pratt & Whitney and General Electric. The accomplishment was enough to attract a buyer for the company in CDI (a public company).

Now a part of CDI, Parent stayed on as Division President Northeast, overseeing offices in the Northeast and Canada. He’d move on in 1996, to regain the title of CEO, this time with Profile Systems where he’d help develop supply chain software for multiple companies, raising $10 million in venture capital. Profile sold to Comergent in 2004, then Comergent was sold to Sterling Commerce.

Parent served for five years as Vice President. Ultimately becoming a division of IBM, Parent was now working for an old client. He and his second wife Sandy bought the business from Sterling, and after that, Parent was not only CEO, but also owner of Syncnicity Inc., who provided an online catalog of surgical products to over 300 hospitals worldwide. Finally, in 2012, Parent would take on his last role, as Consultant/Coach of Vistage International.

“The ability to work with a variety of people and industries and provide guidance from my experiences will stay with me forever,” Parent said, reflecting on his time with Vistage. Here he was tasked with coaching CEOs, presidents, and business owners to improve leadership and the bottom-line. Calling the work extremely rewarding and challenging, Parent said “I have made lifelong friends in the process.”

Today, Parent is formally in retirement, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down. He remains engaged with Syncnicity Inc., and still helps local business leaders. He enjoys boating, golf, traveling around the world, and spending time with his four children, nine grandchildren, and of course, his wife of 43 years.

Parent has come a long way since the days of stocking shelves at Shop Rite, playing pitch in the Campus Center, and living in a third-floor attic apartment. In the years after Western New England, Parent has become a one of a kind leader.