Our Engineer Off to Carnegie Mellon

mark CMI thought no one in the world could be smarter than my big brother until his son was born. Mark McKinzie astounded us from an early age.

Years ago when my sister was driving Doug and Julianne’s children to our family’s cabin, she suggested they play name the states game to pass time. Not only could five-year-old Mark label the states, but he also listed them in the time order that they became part of the union.

You would never know he was such a brainiac for like his dad he is so unpretentious. Like most high school teens, he was involved in extra curricular activities, but what set him apart was that he spent summers at elite academic and engineering camps at Hiram College, Purdue, and Ohio State University. In school he excelled so greatly in math that by his senior year he was taking courses at CASE Western University.

An avid sports fan, he played baseball growing up and could recite the stats of every team and player, not only in baseball, but in basketball and football too. I once asked Mark to help me recall the name of the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and then chuckled overhearing our son and Mark proceed to name every major player on every team in the NFL.Summit Lake w kids & Rachel's grad June 2013 060

At Shaker Heights High School, Mark played Wind Ensemble as principal clarinet, and tenor saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Band and Shaker Heights Marching Band as well as the church bell choir. He was awarded best musician in school his senior year.

Mark exemplifies what can happen when nature and nurture meet in the best of circumstances. His parents, who enhanced his education with lots of hands on learning at home, can be credited with helping foster such a bright mind. They traveled abroad. They visited every state, and countless museums and historical sites with Mark leading the way for like his dad, he could read a map like the back of his hand.

In early childhood, Julianne home schooled him enriching his program with trips to the library, theathre, and concerts. Then they lived in Australia for 2 years. When they returned to the States, they bought a house in Cleveland’s best school district so he could attend Shaker Heights High School where he thrived. Mark continued globe- trotting by traveling to Europe on two SHHS marching band tours and as part of the summer exchange program in Goslar, Germany.

Yet he still found time to give back to the community as a volunteer tutor of at-risk elementary students, a youth basketball and baseball league coach, a vacation Bible school and Shaker Heights band camp counselor. On a youth mission trip, he helped construct houses.

He aced the ACT and was awarded a Merit Scholarship for his stellar results in the SAT. Whereas top college programs recruit high school star athletes, Mark received offers from USAs finest engineering school. Torn between Cornell, Purdue, and Carnegie Mellon, the latter sealed the deal awarding a four-year Presidential academic scholarship.

Mark graduated with a boatload of honors: National Merit Scholar Finalist, American Mathematics Competition Top Scorer for SHHS, AP Scholar with Distinction, Michelson-Morley Award (Case Western Reserve University) for his outstanding achievement in math and science.

Yet he is an all around good kid, sensitive and insightful with a dry sense of humor.In spite of all his accolades, he remains humble and unassuming. He could calculate any logistical problem in a snap, yet never made me feel foolish for being bewildered by numbers. With a sly grin, he’d produce the answer as if it were as easy as breathing.


Hertzlichen Glückwunsch dear nephew. Go out and rock the world!

Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, social view, sport.


  1. It’s hard to believe the 6 ft. 3 “baby” in our family is off to college! So proud of all Mark has accomplished, but especially proud of the good and kind young man he is. Congratulations to Mark….and his parents! I know great things are in your future! Enjoy your first semester at CMU!

    • Kudos to his Aunt Sue too, who kept him fueled with baked goods and tooled him all over until he could drive. Wasn’t it great it was like having your own GPS in the car even before they were invented.

  2. What a pleasure to read this and watch the slide show, Pat. Even without captions, I felt I knew who was who. Thanks for sharing this latest installment in the life of a family we all feel a part of. Best wishes to Mark and congratulations to his parents.

    • Thanks Laura. Please pass on my well wishes to your clan. I was so excited to hear that your family will be leading and inspiring the Golden Warriors again. Wish I could see a game, but I’ll be cheering you on long distance. Blue & Gold forever!

  3. At Carnegie Mellon, he will blossom and fly even higher than anyone thought possible. I’m excited for him and for all of you! What a great Aunt Pat you are. Brenda

  4. Wow! What a lovely tribute to such an accomplished young man and the parents and extended family who helped mold him into what he is. He will, undoubtedly, continue to grow, develop, and become a wonderful contributing member of society with this incredibly educational opportunity. Does this mean all the grandchildren are out of the house now?

  5. Pat, it is so nice to meet Matt and see what a fine young man he is. You make us feel like we a part of your family when you share these wonderful stories and photos and all the forces behind the successes of each family member. Best wishes to Matt as he embarks upon this next chapter. He has all the ingredients to soar!

    • Yep, man with humility…and we can thank his parents for instilling that trait. My brother’s brain could run circles around everyone elses, but he never, ever made us feel slow.

  6. Pat, thanks for sharing Mark’s journey and the great slideshow. What an amazing young man! He certainly has a bright future ahead of him. Multi-talented!

  7. What a fabulous kid! He is off to conquer the world, I have no doubt. Talent and intelligence is clearly a McKinzie trait. Kudos to Mark!

  8. Those McKinzie genes are the best! Nature-nurture though as you say… 🙂 thanks for sharing this; you are one proud Aunty that’s for sure, and deservedly so… 🙂 xxx

    • Oh Rach, you have only to look in the mirrors to see how that nature-nurture combo has brought out the best in your beautiful, multi talented daughters.

      • Aw shucks, thanks Piiiiiaaaaaaatttt 🙂 hugs and love to you my dear friend xx miss ya xxx

  9. Pat, I can hear how proud you are of this outstanding young man — and it’s a pleasure “meeting” him through your post! Pats on the back to his parents. It’s not easy in today’s world to raise a son or daughter who’s not only gifted but also unassuming and big-hearted. Best of luck to Mark for much success at CM!!

  10. Pat,
    Great article. Your nephew sounds like an amazing person. Congratulations and best of luck to him.

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