Architect Comes Home

Mark Finney is an architect, College of San Mateo (CSM) alum, regular donor to the Foundation, and overall jolly person.

Mark had a great time studying at CSM for three years between finishing high school at Burlingame High and getting a degree in architecture from the University of Oregon. This great time included Mark and his fellow CSM architecture students filming an SNL-style movie (that we are dying to see) and exploding caps in the hallways of the engineering building during class and then running away really fast. “That was the worst thing we ever did. But it didn’t start any fires or cause any damage, so far as I know!”

How did you end up going to College of San Mateo?
I grew up in Burlingame, so I went to Burlingame High School. It was the late 70s, and I think I knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t mature enough to go to right to a four-year college.

In high school, Mark “kind of” knew he wanted to be an architect.

How did you know you kind of wanted to be an architect?
I don’t know! In high school, in those days, you took tests to see what you’re interested in. One told you what your strengths are and what you could be good at. That one said, “Beautician.” Not my interest, though. Beautician was number one on the list! Number two was architecture.

Uncertain what he wanted to do, Mark decided to go to CSM.
First of all, tuition was free back then. Parking was free, so you only paid for your books, and that’s it. So there’s no risk at all. I could go a year and still go to another college if I wanted. Well…I ended up there for three years.

The first year, I started in architecture, but then I thought, well, maybe I should explore. Maybe this isn’t right for me. So then I tried some other things – I took film-making, all the general education, etc. Then the third year I was there, I went back to architecture to finish it out and transfer.

From CSM, Mark transferred to the University of Oregon, from which he graduated with a degree in architecture. He is now a partner at Sugimura Finney Architects in Campbell.

How did you end up back here, a donor after all these years?
When I came on board at Sugimura, it was really cool to find out that we had done some work at CSM. I went, hey wait a minute, I went there for three years! I know that school!

It was really neat to come back to the school and see these new buildings right next to where I hung out. And it’s a good feeling–it’s kind of like coming back to your parents’. Coming back home, you get re-energized. I couldn’t help but go in the bookstore and buy a sweatshirt.

Actually, I’m almost more proud of College of San Mateo than I am of Oregon. Oregon has a really good football team [laughs], but when I went to College of San Mateo, I also worked part-time, and that was a growing period, a maturing period for me to do two things at once (trying to make money and taking full-time classes). The teachers were maturing as well. They treated us not like high schoolers, but more like adults with personal responsibility and real consequences.

I learned a lot of things there. I learned to love architecture. I learned how to play golf. I learned how to work and got more disciplined for the first time. In high school, you’re doing it because your parents want you to. In college, you learn you’re doing it for yourself. It takes a while. It took me a couple years to find my own drive. If I’d gone right into a four-year college, I might have gotten depressed, even, or disappointed – or might have left.

I firmly believe in community college. I’m going to encourage my kids to go there too. I feel like my education at College of San Mateo was equally as good as in the Burlingame school system.

So, it’s a sense of pride. I had a good time at CSM when I was there. 

More Fun Facts about Mark

  • Mark’s uncle, Bill Finney, was one of the original college students at Coyote Point (CSM’s original campus). 
  • During our interview, somehow the subject of tea’s relaxing properties came up, and Mark said his wife has trouble sleeping, so they and their five children (“It’s like Brady Bunch!”) now have a family tea time before bed. There has probably never been a cuter cure for insomnia. 


Mark’s Family

    IMG_2208IMG_2225.JPG Pictures from November 2012 133.jpg