When alumnus Mark Hale ’91 committed to supporting the Hermann Viets Tower residence hall project in 2018, he never imagined that his gift might lead to making an even bigger impact, and for a cause that is both personal and passionate to him.
Hale’s five-year pledge was also unique to MSOE at the time, as it was the very first gift to the university to come via Bitcoin. In 2022, when MSOE learned the value of Hale’s bitcoin had increased from his original gift, Vice President of University Advancement Jeff Snow worked with him to align that extra support with areas on campus he cared about.
It was at that moment Hale revealed a desire to help MSOE students struggling with mental health.
A cause that hit very deeply for his family.
In spring of 2021 Mark's nephew Kyle took his own life just as the college senior was preparing to graduate. Hale said Kyle never once showed signs of wanting to end his life.
Hale’s sister, who had always been very active in supporting others, inspired him to use his family’s untimely tragedy as a catalyst to help MSOE students who may also be struggling.
“Kyle was the perfect son. His parents were very active in supporting his education and extra curriculars, so he did well in school. Yet nobody knew, not even his own friends. I wanted to be able to apply this money toward helping make a difference for students, especially those like Kyle who you don’t know may need it. The silent ones,” said Hale.
MSOE currently has one consulting psychologist, and three full-time therapists on staff who support students during the academic year. With Hale’s gift, Kip Kussman, dean of students, is hoping to empower others in the campus community with the skills to recognize and address the warning signs that could prevent future tragedies.
“All of us, regardless of what department we work in, have a role in the well-being of our students,” said Kussman. “With Mark’s gift I want to teach our faculty and staff who are non-clinically trained in mental health to feel confident enough to talk to a student who may be struggling and then connect them to services that can help.”
This school year, Kussman, along with the counseling services staff will continue trainings around mental health first aid, suicide awareness and creating greater access to referral resources that would lead to a reduction in high-risk behaviors.
As for Hale, he’s thankful to be connected to a campus community who cares about their alumni long after they graduate.
“MSOE is more than just a university, it’s a community. I’ve developed longstanding friendships with people who genuinely care about my well-being. Kyle’s passing made me think differently about how I give back. Being able to support mental health services for MSOE students allows me to honor his memory and pay it forward by helping others who really need it.”