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1993 Geography and American Studies
What I am doing now:
I run a very small publishing company which produces the Keele University Yearbook, amongst a few others. I don't make much money from this, so have a variety of other jobs, including one in a supermarket, where I specialise in taking things off things and putting them on other things. I'm also a mystery shopper, which people pouring me a pint would do well to remember!
How did you get to where you are now?
After graduation I started working for KUSU Media and Marketing doing lots of work for not very much money. After a few years I swapped this for the same job at Birmingham University, where I was paid lots of money for not very much work. For reasons I cannot comprehend, I didn't like this and so formed my own company, and am once again in the sweathouse league.
Photo: "Mark is modelling a fashionable cricket sweater from Kay's new Catalogue..."
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Last month I beat my computer at Risk by going for Asia - they said it couldn't be done! I also have the highest Word Soup score in pretty much every pub in Staffordshire. If I was on a date though, I'd probably mention the three grand I raised for Alzheimer's research last summer, doing a 33 mile sponsored walk. If I was at a job interview I'd probably go on about running KUSU and Birmingham media at a profit, and feel dead inside.
And your biggest mistake?
Betting against George W Bush in both elections. In the early years of running my business I lost a lot of money. I enjoy all my work so don't regret having to work hard to get by now, but I do regret all the friends' things I missed because I couldn't afford to go.
What are your ambitions now?
I've been failing to write a book about student life for twenty years now. I'd like to do that and find other ways to use my creative side. I'd like to live in America a while - I was born there but have barely visited. My dad died last year and it seems the right thing to do. I'd like Team Yearbook to win a game in Rugby Sevens - we got close against the Women's Society last year, this year they're going down!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
No amount of money can compensate you for doing a job you're not happy in. No money is too little for a job you love.
What made you choose Keele University?
They accepted my Grade A in General Studies as a proper A Level!
What kind of a student were you?
A very lax one. I went to a total of two hours of lectures and tutorials in my second year. You could do that back then. I liked learning, but always found I could learn more from an hour with a book than in a lecture. I'd like to claim I spent all the saved time on worthy extra-curricular endeavour but mostly it was drinking. The night before my final exam, which would decide whether I got a 2:1 or not, Steve Colwill dragged me out for 'just a couple'. I came round hours later and staggered off to Marta Stera's room where she helped me revise by sledgehammering 20 quotes into my brain. I got 60%, making a 2:1 by single per cent. I didn't deserve it.
How has Keele influenced your life?
Keele has been a tremendous inspiration to me. It manages, seemingly without trying, to make a tremendous range of people regard it as home. Having worked with many universities, I would say with no apologies, that the students Keele attracts are the most generous and least judgemental. When I found I couldn't afford to pay staff on a permanent basis, I was surprised to find that I didn't need to - we have today an enormous team of student volunteers who give so much of their time for little more than a thank you and the occasional drink.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
In the summer of 1996 we made a 'film' satirising space sci-fi TV and film, called Blayk's Battle of the Space Trek Wars! It was written, filmed and edited in under 24 hours, had a budget of 33p (a can of Coke) and is spectacularly bad! Special effects were made from Lego, teleport hats were baseball caps turned sideways, and 'alien' costume consisted of dressing gowns and shades! Filming was in Horwood Bar, Keele Hall and Holly Cross! Wonderfully my best mate then and now, Neil Jenney, uncovered it a couple of years ago and a 'digitally remastered' version now exists on YouTube!
What is your impression of Keele now?
The student experience has changed a lot - continuous assessment and the need for part-time work means it's not the holiday it was in my time. Far more students come from the local area too, which - because they already have social lives, favourite haunts etc - has altered the 'stuck on a hill' mindset which was always such a strong community tie. And yet... students somehow seem to be even more passionate about Keele than ever! I'll level with you, I hate that Love: Keele thing, but you do see it on a lot of facebook statuses, and with any online competition whatsoever, Keele romps home. More personally, I have 150 student volunteers who somehow find time to help us make an awesome yearbook - they are truly marvellous!
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes! Any former students' year isn't up there, I'll see what I can do! Keep it Keele!
We regret to report that Mark "Sparky" Holtz passed away in December 2016. A true Keele legend known befriended by many.