James “Mark” Pogue: 2018 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award

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In the words of Young Life Chief Operating Officer, Steve Thompson, “Part of Mark Pogue’s legacy will always be connected to his passion, talent and commitment to provide life-changing experiences to kids who attend Young Life camps. Mark’s service on camp assignments, his time spent taking kids to camp and his time volunteering at work weeks were all primary examples of how much he enjoyed and excelled at using Young Life camp to help proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Mark was an inspiring leader who helped Young Life staff, volunteers and kids see and experience the glory, wonder and salvation of living a life for Jesus. He will be dearly missed!”

James “Mark” Pogue passed away on Sept. 5, 2018, at the age of 57. Mark is survived by his wife, Jami, and two daughters, Paige and Reilly, who were the joys of his life. In a letter informing Young Life of Mark’s passing, Jami wrote, Mark was brave and others-focused even in his last days on Earth. We were able to take a miracle trip and be the adult guest hosts with our Lincoln area at Castaway just one month before he died. Seeing our two daughters as leaders at camp was one of the greatest joys of our 25 years together! God was so generous in granting us this last trip together as a family.”

Mark Pogue came on Young Life staff in 1987 in Kansas City, and also served as area director for Lincoln, Nebraska, from 1994 to 2000. According to Jami, “Mark’s love for Christ and desire to make a difference in the lives of young people were ignited through being involved in the mission of Young Life. He was drawn to the level of excellence, the laughter, the good clean fun and humor embedded throughout everything. He was captivated by the love, acceptance and the diversity of kids from all walks of life that the ministry drew. His creative gifts found a home with developing characters for walk-ons, giving compelling club talks, taking kids on amazing trips, and always creating and fostering life-changing experiences.”

Mark loved doing program, and served as program director on numerous assignments at Frontier Ranch, Trail West and Castaway Club. A few of his program bits have become enduring legends in the mission, including the Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant. In the words of Mark’s brother, Matt, who is Young Life’s mid-west and northwest Divisional Camping Coordinator, “My brother had a passion to help kids know who Jesus is and how to have a personal relationship with him. Early on, Mark worked with his church and Campus Crusade, but after some friends encouraged him be a Young Life leader he found a place where his gifts were a perfect fit. His ability to make people laugh and engage them with the Gospel were a gift to all of us. One of my most treasured times was working at Frontier when he would do program.  Listening to both he and Brian Summerall banter during any games at camp were some of the best times ever!”

In 2000, Mark left Young Life and joined Gallup, first in Lincoln, then in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Leading the higher education division for Gallup for 15 years, Mark was an entrepreneur within the organization, launching and growing StrengthsQuest and higher education with outstanding success. He was a highly sought-after keynote speaker and subject matter expert at higher-education conferences nationwide.

In 2008, Mark received his master’s in Executive Leadership from the University of Nebraska, College of Business. During this time, the Pogues remained as donors and attended family camp at Castaway each year when their girls were young. Then, in 2011, Mark was key to helping start a new area — Young Life Southwest Twin Cities — and joined the startup committee. According to Jami, “Our two daughters were in middle school and it was a thrill to help bring Young Life to our area.”

During his years at Gallup, Mark shared his expertise around strengths-based development, leading sessions for Young Life staff and leaders throughout the Midwest. He even used two weeks of vacation time to serve as a camp program director for Young Life’s ministry to military teens in Italy (MCYM). Mark also served on the Castaway committee for several years.500x400MarkPogue2.jpg

When the Pogues moved back to Lincoln in 2015, (Mark became the executive director of Clifton Strengths Institute at the UNL), Mark immediately became the Young Life committee chair and served in that capacity until his passing. As a professor, Mark taught all incoming business majors about their God-given strengths and how to leverage their talents in college, career and life beyond. He recruited and trained over 100 strengths coaches each year to coach more than 1,000 freshmen. His pioneering model serves as a best practice in higher education and is one of the flagship programs at the University of Nebraska. Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, while speaking at a 2016 UNL gala to honor donors that gave to build the new business school, of which Gallup and the Clifton family were among the most generous, said, “ … maybe our bigger gift was giving the university Mark Pogue” (founding executive director of the Clifton Strengths Institute). “He had to bring his magic and he did.” Always a Young Life leader even as a professor, Mark loved his students, invited them to his home, did contact work by attending their athletic events and derived deep satisfaction from pouring into their lives with all of his knowledge, passion, faith and love.

In Jami’s words, “Young Life is woven into the tapestry of our entire lives. As donors, staff, volunteer leaders and committee, being involved with Young Life has been one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Mark embodied exceptional and unselfish dedication to Young Life, using his gifts to serve, equip and fortify the mission with his talents and financially as donors for over 30 years.” Echoing these sentiments, Pam Moore, Young Life director of Training wrote, Mark Pogue was a wonderful individual and a great Young Life staff person. He was creative with program and had a great sense of humor. He built a solid Young Life community of UNL students and young adults there in Lincoln, and was well-loved and respected. Mark was a great husband to Jami, and a loving and proud father of his two daughters.”

To be sure, Mark’s life ended too young; however, his years were abundant, joyful and full of eternal impact. We celebrate the life of Mark Pogue and are honored to name him as our 2018 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

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