WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 13, 2015) — The Organization of Chinese Americans announced Thursday the national organization and its state chapters are deeply saddened by the passing of OCA Co-Founder Alex Mark.
Mark, along with Co-Founder Kung Lee Wang, founded OCA after acknowledging a void of one representative voice in the Chinese American civil rights movement. At the urging of Wang, Mark chaired a steering committee to establish a national organization for Chinese Americans in Detroit. By February 1973, the Association of Chinese Americans was established and incorporated in Detroit with Mark as its first President. Mark later went onto become President at both the Detroit and Cleveland chapters.
Following its initial establishment, invitation letters to join OCA were signed by Wang and Mark and sent to Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and other Chinese American communities. Today, there are over 100 OCA chapters and affiliates across the country working on behalf of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent as an organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans. Mark, along with Wang, had a vision of an organization that would ensure that Asian American voices are included as American voices – one that encouraged action and commitment of Asian Americans in advocacy and participation in the American dream.
As OCA continues its celebration of 42 years of service to the community, it remembers its co-founder, Mark, and its humble beginnings as the first Asian American organization headquartered in the nation’s capital. Following the passing of Mark, OCA Past National Presidents have given their fond memories and condolences:
“Alex Mark was an extraordinary visionary for the APA community. In a time when the APA Civil Rights movement was in its infancy, Mark provided the inspiration and leadership necessary to bring OCA into the forefront of our fight for justice and enact the change needed to bring change to our community. Today, we stand on the shoulders of those who have laid the foundation before us, including Alex, whose legacy continues to be felt today. With deepest regards, we thank Alex for his incredible service to OCA and the community and express our deepest sympathies to the Mark family. May OCA continue to honor his memory by pushing toward equity and equality for all APAs” – Ken Lee, Chief Executive Officer; Past National President 2009-2012
“It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of Alex Mark, one of OCA’s founding members. As an advocate for APA social justice in the early 1970’s, Alex worked to organize the first meeting of local leaders from around the Country to discuss civil rights. OCA was conceived and organized at this meeting. In the ensuing years, Alex continued to lend his voice and leadership to the community. Having served in many positions and capacities, Alex continued to participate in OCA events in recent years. While Alex’s passing leaves a void in our community, it is through Alex’s foresight that OCA has been developing the next generation of leaders. OCA is confident that these young leaders will step forward to fill that void. On behalf of OCA’s hundreds of chapters and affiliates, we offer our thoughts, prayers and warm wishes to the Mark family.” – Michael Kwan, OCA National President 2015-2016
“When I first met Alex Mark, I knew I was in the presence of a man of distinction, a man who stood tall with others in the fight for equality and equity for our AAPI community. He exuded the kind of presence that only leaders and game-changers can. I didn’t know till later that he was a co-founder of OCA but he made it possible for my dream of a united AAPI organization to come to fruition. When I met Alex, he made me feel welcome and included – he told me there was a seat for all of us and I believed him. He was collaborative, working to get the original chapters organized and knew how to effectively partner with others for the greater good of the community. Without his leadership, OCA would not be the organization we are today – advocating for the AAPI community and bringing people together. I salute you, Alex Mark for all that you did to bring us together!”- Sharon M. Wong, Past National President, 2013-2014
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of this very humble, gentle man who was dedicated to a vision that was not for the gentle-hearted. Alex was the ultimate consensus builder and a leader with great integrity. When he spoke, people listened. Underlying his soft spoken persona was a remarkable man deeply committed to promoting the well-being of Asian Americans. OCA benefitted from his service, sacrifice, compassion, encouragement and tireless work as a champion for social justice and civil rights. These traits continued over the years to energize OCA’s members. Alex’s dedication to OCA’s mission was annually confirmed by his participation at OCA’s National Conventions well into his retirement. OCA celebrates Alex’s life and honors the legacy of his work. We are extraordinarily grateful for his vision of what OCA could be, his steady leadership in getting OCA to what it has become, and his gentle spirit to guide OCA to what it will be for years to come.” – Ginny Gong, Past National President, 1993-1994; 2005-2008
“After K.L. Wang established the Chinese American Leadership Council, the precursor of OCA, in Washington, DC in September 1971, Alex Mark shortly started a national organization in Detroit, known as Association of Chinese Americans, which subsequently continued with the same name and became a part of OCA family. Invitation letters, co-signed by Alex and K.L., were sent to many organizations nation-wide to join OCA and to convene the first National Convention on June 9, 1973 which became the official inception date of OCA. The original OCA in Washington, DC, the ACA in Detroit and the League of Chinese Americans in St. Louis became the three founding chapters of OCA. For more than 40 years, Alex, as a co-founder, always exuded that calm and unwavering commitment and provided the guiding light for our vision which we will miss greatly.” – Michael Lin, Past National President, 1995-1998
“I met Alex Mark at my first OCA Convention in Detroit in (1989), the year when the San Francisco Bay Chapter was established. He shared with me his thoughts on the importance of having a national voice for Chinese Americans and at the same time, build new chapters to connect communities across the country. Alex’s legacy was not just in the founding of a national organization, but equally important was his continuous commitment in providing support and guidance for almost forty years. Among the many roles Alex has played, he also helped founded and chaired Council of Past National Presidents for many years.He wanted to make sure that those who have been in leadership positions would continue to be part of the OCA family and feel welcome to participate and give input.OCA has become a stronger organization in its growth and development as a result of Alex’s vision and effort to foster continuous involvement. Alex will be sorely missed but his legacy and presence will always be felt and honored.” – Claudine Cheng, Past National President 1991-1992
Mark was born in Toronto, Canada and was one of seven children. After obtaining his BS and a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering, Mark became Massey-Ferguson’s first Asian Chief Engineer. His innovations in tractor design resulted in 19 patents.
Following his move to Detroit in 1955, his family eventually became American citizens and traveled between Milwaukee, Detroit, and eventually moved to Cleveland where he resided until he retired in 1994 and moved to St. Petersburg.
In addition to his time at OCA, Mark also was intimately involved in the construction of Cleveland’s Chinese Cultural Garden and was the founding president of the Cleveland Chinese Senior Citizens Association. He also served as president of the International Services Center, was a board member of the Cleveland Council of World Affairs, and the Hispanic improvement group El Barrio. The strength of his concern and compassion for his church and community were only exceeded by the depth of his love for his family.
Mark, who was 90, passed away on January 23, 2015 at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. A memorial service will be held in his honor on March 21, 2015 at 2:00 PM with the interment at 1:30 PM at the Maximo Presbyterian Church, 3200 58thAvenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations to Maximo Presbyterian Church.
OCA, Asian Pacific American Advocates, is a national membership-driven organization of community advocates dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).