Mark Molina '81; Once A Cardinal, Always a Cardinal
By Kariesha Martinez '19
The humble beginnings of Wesleyan Alumni, Mark Molina '81, started with a backpacking trip through Europe before becoming a successful Wall Street lawyer and eventually settling down in his home state of Connecticut. He was a well-rounded student during his four years in Middletown. Not only was he a star on the football team, but Molina was also a history buff and proud brother of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE). He exemplifies what going to a liberal arts college is all about.
Molina's athletic claim to fame was his time on the football team, which constitutes some of his favorite memories from Wesleyan. He reminisces about the lifelong friendships he has made, as well as the goofy moments that he shared with his teammates. He misses Friday afternoon practices on freshly cut grass and music blasting on the sound system, with a nod to Bob Seager.
Molina doesn't, by any means, come from a privileged Connecticut family. Born in California, but raised in Naugatuck, he grew up in a lower class single parent household. Living in a blue-collar industrial town, Wesleyan seemed way out of reach, "No one around me had been to college and there was no meaningful guidance at my high school."
During his senior year of high school, Molina received the Walter Camp Scholar-Athlete Award. The Walter Camp Football Foundation is a volunteer organization which aims to support and aid individuals and organizations who have distinguished themselves within the sport. While at the banquet to receive his award, Wesleyan's head football coach, Bill MacDermott (Coach Mac), asked Molina to play for the Cardinals. Although he had never heard of Wesleyan, a little bit of research led Molina to his dream school. Thanks to Coach Mac and the University's amazing financial aid program, Molina was able to join the team, "I realized what a great fit it would be and I applied. [And] Thank goodness for aid blind admissions and the financial assistance this great university provides to those who need it."
Molina majored in history, a topic that he loved and, to this day, still loves. He was also a member of DKE, one of Wesleyan's oldest fraternities on campus, and served as an officer. While also being a resident advisor, he epitomized the leadership qualities of a Wesleyan student.
In addition to his involvement on campus, Molina had many part-time jobs. "I also worked a ton of hours on and off campus to make money during the year, and during my summers, to help defray the cost of school and loans. One summer I worked on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, another I was a crab butcher at a fish cannery in the Aleutian Islands. [They were] Long hours, roll up the sleeves dirty work, but they paid well and provided some adventure and maybe even a little bit of character along the way."
Molina's adventures didn't stop during his summers or even after he graduated in 1981. Although he went on to be an extremely successful Wall Street lawyer, he made a few detours along the way. "After graduation, I worked as a bartender for a few months and then traveled through Europe for six months, before going to Michigan Law." He was able to settle down for about twenty years, becoming the Chief Legal Officer for some publicly traded tech companies on Wall Street. However, after some time, his itch for adventure came back. "I was growing bored with it and felt like I wanted a new challenge – I wanted to feel uncomfortable again, as strange as that may seem." Molina now owns a few small fitness businesses throughout Connecticut. He still lives in his home state of Connecticut and has two sons, one who graduated from Connecticut College, and one who is a Cardinal himself.
When looking at today's athletes, he notes a significant rise in athleticism across all sports at Wesleyan. "A rising tide raises all the boats and I think the tide really started when A.D. Mike Whalen came down from Williams four or five years ago… and it continues with Coach DiCenzo, they have done an amazing job."
Through and through, Molina accredits much of his success to his alma mater. "Wesleyan was a miracle for me. Not just the way I ended up here, but the way it allowed me to explore and grow intellectually, personally, [and] socially… From Wesleyan, I learned that there is rarely one 'right' path or answer in life, and as long as you follow your heart and work very, very hard, anything and everything is possible."
Molina truly exemplifies what it means to be a well-rounded Wesleyan student. From his humble beginnings to his leadership throughout college, and his post-graduate accomplishments, Molina's adventurous nature proves that life goes as far as you'll push it. On Saturday, Nov. 10, Molina served as an honorary captain for Wesleyan's final game of 2018. Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal.