By: Brooke Mulvaney, Marcia Watson, and Brianne Webster
Early on in life, Mark Schweitzer knew he wanted to be a teacher. Having exceptional teachers growing up made his decision to go into teaching effortless. In front of the Beaver Dam Middle School, on the corner of Fourth and Spring Streets, there is a new LED sign that pays tribute to Mark with the dedication, “In memory of Mark ‘Doc’ Schweitzer – beloved teacher to many.” Mark battled Crohn’s disease for more than 40 years, which led to him developing cancer. Mark lost his battle on October 26, 2013. His memory will live on through this sign.
Mark was born in Beaver Dam on August 19, 1950, to Walter and Lydia Schweitzer. Mark was one of nine children. Walter and Lydia’s blended family consisted of Lydia’s son Michael and Walter’s four children, Walter, Patricia, Dennis, and Mary. Together, Walter and Lydia had four children: Marcia, Mark, Paul (Dusty), and Bret. The Schweitzer family lived and grew up on the north side of town on DeClark Street. The nearby athletic field became one of their favorite places to play baseball and other outdoor sports. It was here where Mark’s love of sports took root.
Mark graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 1968. A few years later he was drafted into the Army, serving two years while stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. After he completed his military service, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and in 1980, received his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. To grow professionally as an educator and commit himself further to teaching, he later returned to UW-Madison to earn his Master’s degree in Educational Administration.
As fate would have it, Mark landed his first teaching job at the school in Beaver Dam that he attended as a child, Washington Elementary School. Eventually, his career led him to the Beaver Dam Junior High/Middle School where he taught seventh grade social studies for more than 20 years.
During his time as a social studies teacher, Mark stirred the imaginations of his students with beautiful maps, globes, and posters of the world. He truly believed social studies was the perfect platform to help his students understand the world around them. He posed questions, cracked jokes (A LOT of jokes) and gently corralled the students’ rambunctious energy. He would walk the aisles, affectionately touching their shoulders like a loving parent. He cared deeply for and enjoyed connecting with his “kids.” He established a Stock Market Club to encourage and motivate his students to become involved in current issues. Former students have said he was the reason they became teachers or worked in finance. This humbled him knowing he made a difference in his students’ lives.
In 2007 Mark retired from teaching, but ever the consummate educator, he continued staying involved for years as a substitute teacher for some of his favorite colleagues and subjects. His older sister Marcia warmly recalled asking him for what subject or whom he was subbing. Mark replied, “Music.” Curious, Marcia inquired, “What do you know about music?” In true Mark fashion, his matter-of-fact reply was, “Well, I like good music, and they [the students] like to sing, so I told them to make us both happy and sing.” This is just one of many heartwarming anecdotes from his teaching days.
Perhaps Mark’s most challenging yet rewarding responsibility began 31 years ago when he embraced the role of husband and stepfather. He married Juanita Roberts who had three young children of her own, a son Bucky and two daughters, Brooke and Brianne. Being a father to and raising children that were not biologically his was truly the job of a lifetime, which he did unconditionally. Mark and Juanita divorced years later, but that did not stop him from continuing to be a father, and later, a grandfather to Jack and Seth.
Mark’s mentoring extended outside the classroom to coaching youth basketball, baseball, and softball. He coached boys and girls middle school basketball for 19 years and girls high school JV softball for 17 years. His three children benefitted from his deep knowledge of sports and expertise in coaching, as all three excelled in athletics as young children and into their teen years. Additionally, he enjoyed refereeing volleyball.
Mark would do anything to help out others. He donated to the community program Stuff the Bus which collected school supplies for children in need. To Mark, it was extremely important for every child to have the necessary resources to help him/her succeed as a student. He was a respected co-worker who strongly advocated for teacher rights on behalf of his colleagues. As an active member of the Beaver Dam Education Association, he worked many years on the bargaining team and served as the lead negotiator.
During his retirement years, Mark enjoyed hunting, trap shooting, canning, and golfing. He was an avid Packers and Badgers fan, and a member of Ducks Unlimited and Trinity Church–United Methodist in Beaver Dam. Mark strongly supported medical research and organ donation. He bought a 1970 Corvette that he was restoring and now his brother Dusty has taken over that job. Mark also enjoyed caring for and working in his vegetable garden.
Even though Mark is no longer with us, we hope he will continue to inspire others for many years to come. One former colleague described Mark fondly: “A smile that lights up a room, a laugh that is contagious, and a caring heart. I am so grateful to have known and worked with him.”
The sign in front of the Middle School is the perfect dedication to him. His passion for the Middle School and pride in Beaver Dam shaped him into a dedicated educator, compassionate colleague, loyal father, loving brother, and good friend. He is greatly missed by many.