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Mark Baum

The "From Riches to Rags" article in a 1994 issue of The Shorthorn describes how Mark Baum gave up a high-paying job at his dad's Houston furniture business to become a college student.

Mark Baum
"... there isn't an investment that I have or will make in my business career that will be as important as the investments I make in deserving people."

"When I told my father I was coming to UTA, he said, ‘Mark, you're making 70 grand a year. Are you stupid?'" recalls Baum, who proved he wasn't by earning a bachelor's degree in political science in less than three years.

Since his time at UT Arlington, the 35-year-old entrepreneur has been doing his best to return to the riches. He is a managing director of BCGU, a San Diego-based hedge fund manager and advisory business that provides financing and intellectual capital to small public companies in the United States and abroad.

Name an area of business and BCGU is likely involved: nurse staffing, consumable water and other beverages, solar power, computer software, oil and gas development and rapid diagnostic testing, to name a few. BCGU recently took one of the largest broadband Internet providers in China public.

Baum rises at 5 o'clock each morning and is in the office by 6, analyzing his portfolio, making calls to the east coast and plotting his next moves. His family taught him that if he wanted success-monetarily or otherwise-he'd have to earn it. "I've always been interested in working hard, being creative and trying to be self-sufficient."

After UT Arlington, Baum loaded up a U-Haul and "hit the road, literally like the Beverly Hillbillies," he said. "I'd never been to California and didn't know anyone." He graduated from California Western School of Law in San Diego and practiced law for about nine months-long enough to pay off his school loans. Then he started an online pharmacy that catered to HIV positive Hispanic men in California. He grew the business, took it public and, in about a year, made enough money to finance BCGU.

History Associate Professor Elisabeth Cawthon remembers a student who relished thinking across disciplines and was a wonderful conversationalist with a devotion to public service.

"Mark impressed me as someone who was not only book smart, though he had plenty of intellectual gifts," Dr. Cawthon said. "He had a keen idea of how to apply knowledge. It's hard not to recall someone who was so talented and had such a clear vision of civic responsibility."

That vision has come full circle. Last year the Mark L. Baum Scholarship Fund awarded six scholarships to outstanding liberal arts majors. One of the recipients was art senior Michelle Proksell. "Now I can concentrate more on what elaborate projects I'd like to pursue," said the aspiring professional artist. "I have the means to make art rather than worry about how to pay for it."

Baum's goal with the scholarship is simple: help as many deserving, talented and motivated students as he can.

"I want to promote goodness and truth. I believe goodness and truth lie in everyone. My experience in trying to give back has convinced me that there isn't an investment that I have or will make in my business career that will be as important as the investments I make in deserving people. UTA is loaded with brilliant people with wonderful goals and stories."

Goals he's helping them reach and stories he's helping them tell.



— Mark Permenter


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