Mark and Simone Bye have moved 10 times in 25 years of marriage, mostly outside of the United States. They have lived in six countries and many of the world's major metropolitan cities, and they grew their family by three along the way. Their second child, Colin '17, turned the family's attention to Davidson, and now they are hoping to use their global perspective to enhance the experiences of the college's nearly 2,000 students.
"I was born and raised in the United States, and first went to Europe for work in the mid-1980s," said Mark Bye, who has held executive leadership positions with both public and private industrial companies and investment firms, including his current role as a managing director for Morgan Stanley Private Equity in New York. "This was a tremendous learning for me, and I found a great appreciation for the uniqueness of cultures and the value that comes from diversity. It was an epiphany, really, and I embraced it."
At the time, Bye spoke English and French, but he quickly learned some Dutch and Italian, and eventually became fluent in German.
Mark met Simone, who is from Austria, and together they have cultivated an appreciation for cultural differences and how those differences can enrich life.
The family has lived in Holland, Germany, Austria, England, Singapore and the United States–barefoot visits to temples, unexpected conversations with strangers and introductions to new religions are among the educational experiences their children have received outside of the classroom. Because of these experiences, the Byes say they learned to "be brave, not intimidated, in the world."
The Bye kids were enrolled in a diverse Singapore school when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred. While the event was a defining moment for the family, Mark was struck by the contrasts between the conversations his children had in school following the attacks versus those occurring in many schools in the United States.
"The dialogue in our school was not about religion at all," Mark said. "The fact that those involved were Muslim was a side note to the story, while in the United States, the focus of many of the discussions was quite different. My kids' conversations were simply about ‘the bad guys.'"
The Bye family's global interests and passions have led them to support Davidson with a gift to enhance the Office of Admission and Financial Aid's international work.
"Davidson is committed to attracting and enrolling exceptional students who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to our campus community," said Chris Gruber, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid. "This generous gift will allow us to introduce Davidson to more of the world, and it will allow us to invite more counselors and prospective students and families to learn about, and consider, Davidson as a top college choice. The Bye family's support is visionary and will make a significant, immediate difference for the college."
The Byes want their gift to benefit both American and international students, recognizing there is much to be gained for all when new perspectives are introduced into the conversation. They also hope their support allows Davidson to expand its sphere of influence and impact outside of the United States.
"We have had a tremendous opportunity to experience various cultures and appreciate what that means," said Mark. "These exchanges and discussions within international communities are the best ways to remove filters and break down barriers that sometimes occur due to subconscious ignorance or lack of awareness of other people's valid perspectives."
Colin Bye fell in love with Davidson immediately, not only because of the quality of education but also the values of the students he met and the approach Davidson takes to education-encouragement of open debate and independent thinking around the key issues shaping our world.
"Davidson clearly embraces the value of diversity and works hard to set an example of how that's supposed to work," Mark said.
Although Mark and Simone Bye have traveled the world, they have learned a great deal from their Wildcat son, thanks to the experiences and discussions he's engaged in at Davidson. He has also taken advantage of opportunities to travel, most recently attending the college's Holocaust-centered trip to Germany.
"Colin and I are quite different in many ways," said Mark. "He is a theatre major who is socially aware and knows the kind of impact he hopes to make in the world. He has explored economics and political science, and Davidson has allowed him to consider a number of different paths. I went to MIT and am a very linear thinker. Colin has truly opened my eyes and educated me. I often think I'm a pretty enlightened guy and I understand my filters, but he has pointed so much out to me, and I'm better off for that. This was certainly enhanced by his Davidson education."
The Byes have a family motto: "The decisions you make determine the life that you lead."
"Any time we discuss making a contribution to an organization we care about, we hammer this idea into our kids," said Mark. "It's important to make decisions that help not only our life, but also the lives of others. We hope our gift to Davidson does that."