One winter, as facilities was clearing the sidewalks for students in a snowstorm, Mark Runge, then facilities director, noticed a path in the snow between the residence halls and the library. To help students better get through that area, Runge added that path to the priority list of sidewalks that needed to get cleared.
“I remember Mark telling us, ‘This is a new piece we’re gonna do because the students are doing that, they’re tromping through the snow to get there, we’re gonna make it easier for them,’” said Gwen Larson, assistant director of marketing and media. “I really think that characterizes Mark and his relationship with campus as a physical entity, but with the students, faculty and staff as people also.”
Runge had worked on campus for nearly 30 years before his death on Sept. 16. Many faculty members recalled times that Runge played a crucial role on campus, such as Jim Williams, vice president of Student Affairs.
“There was a number of things that Mark was really good at,” Williams said. “For me, he was a solutioneer like no others. He’d figure out how to get something done that I’d say two thirds of people would say, ‘Oh, it can’t be done.’”
According to Williams, Runge was very “student-focused.”
“He was very passionate,” Williams said. “I can’t tell you the number of times, and it was always reassuring, he would say, ‘Well, the students need,’ or ‘This is for the students, we’ve got to make sure that this is addressed because it is a student safety issue.’ Students were apart of his vocabulary.”
Diana Kuhlman, vice president of administration and finance, had worked with Runge for just over 25 years, both serving in various positions as they worked together.
“Just about anything that’s been going on in the buildings, Mark has had some hand in,” Kuhlman said. “He was excited about working with departments to renovate and make improvements that would better serve the students. He was very student-centered in what he did and how he planned.”
When Kuhlman was named interim vice president of administration and finance, she said she remembers one of their first weekly meetings.
“When I first came into this position as vice president, or as interim vice president in January of 2017, one of our very first meetings, because we met weekly, he said ‘Diana, endeavor to persevere,’” Kuhlman said. “That was his mantra, ‘Endeavor to persevere.’”
Runge is remembered as many things: Kind, humble, student-focused and caring, Kuhlman said.
“I wrote some things down actually,” Kuhlman said. “He was very humble, always serving, he had a very calming sense about him, also inserted his wit, had a great sense of humor, very knowledgeable and he loved taking care of people. He loved his family. He loved his ESU family.”
As a family focused person, Runge loved to travel with them and his wife.
“He loved to go to Disney World,” Kuhlman said. “He and his wife would take an annual trip the last...several years, just the two of them. And one of the things about this place, being director of facilities, is that he wanted to strive for the Disney standard in the feel and the look of our campus in terms of being welcoming and clean and vibrant.”
According to Williams, Runge took his work very seriously, but never failed to find the humor.
“I think that’s kind of the spirit he brought to the position too is that he took everything so, so seriously, but he could find the humor in different things,” Williams said.
Agreeing, Kuhlman said she missed his smile and being around him.
“He liked to be a little ornery,” Kuhlman said. “He’d crack a joke or tease a bit and just his laugh and the smile, (that) was not (just) on his mouth, but in his eyes. He just was enjoyable to be around.”