Computers & Choreography – Meet SUNY Brockport Alum Mark Lacatena ’87

Photo, Alumnus Mark Lacatena ?87

In this month’s Donor Impact Series, Mark Lacatena ’87 shares what about Brockport means the most to him, what inspired his journey of giving back, and why he decided to set up a Dance scholarship honoring his teacher, Emerita Professor of Dance, Jacquie Davis.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your connection to SUNY Brockport.

A: Well, in the mid-1980s, I had a strange dual-career. I was a Computer Systems Analyst, and I was also dancing and performing in Washington, D.C. [laughs] Yeah, I know...believe it or not, the dancing got me a few job interviews. They wanted to meet somebody who did computers and danced. But that’s totally aside. In the mid-80s, I wanted to become a dance instructor. I knew that I needed to get a master’s degree.

I was also interested in Laban Movement Analysis, which is a specialty inside of dance and movement in general. SUNY Brockport had a program that would transfer credits from the certification program at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies as graduate credits to the M.A. program. That’s really what got me into SUNY Brockport and the Master’s program in Dance.

Q: When was the last time you visited campus? How did it feel in comparison to when you were a student?

A: If I remember correctly, the last time I was on campus was February of 2015. That was for the Leadership Conference — I was presenting. It was a lot colder than I remember! [laughs] If memory serves, there was a Polar Vortex. It was one of those weeks in February when, if it gets up to 5° [Fahrenheit], you’re doing good! The piles of snow were just as high [as I remembered].

The conference was at the Seymour Union. And the energy in the Seymour Union was the same. You had a lot of students really involved and really interested in what was going on. It was just great to feel the energy again.

Q: Do you recall your very first gift to SUNY Brockport?

A: It was a long time ago, I’ve been donating for a number of years to different dance scholarships. I can’t remember, it might’ve been twenty dollars, might’ve been fifty dollars. I had reached the point in my career where I could start giving back. It was important to give back because SUNY Brockport had given me so much.

Q: What inspired your decision to create the Jacquie Davis Endowed Experiential Learning Fund in Dance?

A: Well first let’s talk about Jacquie [Davis, Associate Professor of Dance at SUNY Brockport from 1969-2021]...she was a very strong influence while I was at Brockport. I respect Jacquie so much, she’s just amazing. I was doing this program with Laban Movement Analysis, at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute. Even though I moved away from dance and into the business world, I still use what I learned at Brockport and at LIMS [the abbreviation for the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies].  

I wanted to do something to support students who would be studying in somatic studies programs. I was passionate about it, SUNY Brockport let me work that into my master’s program, and I wanted to support the students that share that passion. Or [help students] find that passion. That’s the thing about an experiential fund. It’s there for students to explore and learn and find out for themselves. You learn to dance by dancing. And that’s why the experiential fund is so important.

Q: Tell us a bit about the fund. What impact do you hope it will have on others?

A: I want to support students who are interested in the same things that interested me, and I don’t want money to be a barrier to pursuing that.

Q: What are you most passionate about in regard to SUNY Brockport?

A: It’s the Dance Program. SUNY Brockport’s Dance Program was my home for several years. There’s a difference between an undergraduate and a graduate program. In a graduate program, you’re only in the one department. It’s very unusual to go outside of that department.

Q: Why does giving back to your alma mater matter to you?

A: SUNY Brockport gave me the opportunity to grow, and I want others to have that same opportunity. To me, it’s important to give back, and everyone can give back in their own way. You can give your time, you can give money, and I’d love to see every alum of SUNY Brockport give back in some way. 

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