Q1: In addition to practicing law, you’ve held roles as a city councilman and Fort Wayne Community School board president. How do you continue to stay involved with the community today?
I try hard to remain aware of trends in public education and meet occasionally with the current FWCS superintendent, which keeps me in touch with FWCS. I recently spoke to a Ball State graduate class on Education Administration and I have assisted school boards with governance strategies. I am actively looking for opportunities to continue serving the community, but not in an elected capacity.
Q2: What is one accomplishment you are most proud of and why?
On a personal level, it’s knowing that I made time to participate in Dr. Tony’s Scouting and Little League experiences, and played an active role in my four daughters’ many activities as they grew into adulthood. My wife Susyn gets the credit for whom they have become, but I am proud to have been there along the way. My kids have enough “Mark GiaQuinta stories” to fill a multi-volume set. Don’t get them started on describing a Mark-nado!
Professionally, I would have to choose from each life chapter. Getting elected to the City Council at just 25 and sponsoring the city’s first No Smoking Ordinance (banning it from grocery stores) stands out. Serving as the chairman of the St. Joe Hospital Board in the ‘80s with the Catholic Sisters was an incredible experience. My work with Dr. Robinson to improve the FWCS high school graduation rate to almost 90% by 2016 remains a point of pride. I never once cast a vote that I didn’t believe was the right thing for the community. That’s a good feeling to have after you leave any office.
On the legal side, being asked by Chief Judge Rush to decide a case as Special Judge of the Indiana Tax Court was an unforgettable experience, but so was each of my Supreme Court appearances. I have loved practicing law.
But, I hope the accomplishment I am most proud of is yet to come. I only have so many years left to become the person I want to be and I have lots of work left to do. I watched my dad grow into a better person with age and I aspire to do the same. I want to make a difference in the lives of others in the thoughtful and purposeful way I shape and live my own life. Susyn serves as my life-coach — poor thing! She has me convinced that my next chapter will be more fulfilling than those already lived. If I do my part, I think it will. So that is the challenge and time will tell whether I get there, but I am sure trying! Let’s talk again in ten years.
Q3: How do you spend your free time?
I try hard not to miss my fitness classes at the Central YMCA each night, especially Julie’s Pilates classes. I love feeling healthy and strong. I am really sad that a hand injury prevents me from playing my guitars, but I am learning the ukulele. Golf is my favorite recreational activity and thanks to Chad Ayers, an amazing teaching professional, I am back to playing and am able to grip the club. I still work long hours every week so I don’t have the free time many my age enjoy.
Q4: What are your favorite things to do in and around the city of Fort Wayne?
Susyn and I love music. We take in the Foellinger Theatre and Clyde Theatre events whenever possible. I cannot wait for the opening of the Electric Works project. I think it will transform the downtown all the way to Creighton Avenue. But my favorite activity is picking up grandkids (we are waiting on number 10!) at 7 a.m. for breakfast at the Bluebird, then dropping them off at Bunche and Irwin elementary schools.
Q5: Football season is here. Who are you rooting for and why?
High School: I played on the 1969 and 1971 Bishop Luers city championship teams so I keep track of the Knights. College: I curse, but still love the Hoosiers every week. Professional: I performed some community work for the Colts when they were planning Lucas Oil Stadium. I have been a season ticket holder for many years. Go Colts!
Q6: What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has made a lasting impression on you?
It is not so much advice, but more so what I have learned from observing. First, no one has done it on his or her own. My mom taught me a passion for learning. Thanks to her, I could read and write before kindergarten! My dad taught me that sometimes you have to march up to a bully and punch him in the nose (figuratively, not literally – though I did both growing up!). But most of all dad taught us that honesty is always the best policy. Sadly, at age 19 I got into a terrible fight with him (a WWII veteran) over the Vietnam War. That led to lots of lessons about needing others. I left home with no plan and no money to return to Indiana University (IU). I moved into a rental near Pontiac and Lafayette Streets and rode a bike to Dana that summer. A guy named Felix Ortiz helped me get my work done at Dana or I’d never have made the bonus money to get back to school. Walt Stout, Ike Lassiter and Charlie Knox were bosses who allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them. Nobel winner Elinor Ostrom hired me in college and inspired my public service. Attorney Bob Thompson took me under his wing as a young lawyer and taught me how to argue a case.
You can learn from what others fail to do as well. My parents’ generation had a hard time saying, “I’m sorry” to their kids. I have learned to apologize to Susyn, the kids and others when my shortcomings get the better of me. I am sure I owe more than a few of your readers an apology for something! Oh, and by the way, dad and I made our peace. He was so proud of me and all my siblings. I miss him every day.
Q7: What does a normal day look like for you?
I am a hard worker (another lesson from dad). I am often on the phone at 7 a.m. One of my clients has facilities in four time zones so my day tracks their day, which means taking calls well into the evening and on weekends. I stop at the end of the regular work day to make my YMCA group class at 5:30 p.m. Susyn and I eat when I get home then she announces “jammy time.” That is the call to meet on the couch and tune to whatever trash TV series we happen to be binging. At around 10 p.m. I start the daily crossword puzzle. I tend to finish it when I wake up at 3 a.m. I usually sneak in a call to Leah, Tony, Olivia, Marah or Emma just to say, “Hi” and “I love you!”
Q8: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is just starting out in their career as an attorney, what would it be?
That's easy: Demonstrate passion in all that you do!