Winter 2017

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Alumni Life

Alumni in Action: Lisa Mar

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The NAA Board's regional director for Asia helps international alumni feel like they’re part of the Northwestern family.

Lisa Mar
Lisa Mar serves on the NAA Board as regional director for Asia. Photo by Anil Kapahi.

As a 12-year-old, Lisa Mar began covering sports for her local newspaper in Mercer Island, Wash., and planned to continue her career in sports journalism when she enrolled in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in 1983. But when a Hong Kong–based trade publishing company recruited her during senior year, Mar put plans for a master’s degree in journalism on hold.

“I thought, graduate school will be there forever, but the opportunity to work overseas might not be,” says Mar ’87, ’94 MBA. “It sent me down this international path that I had never considered or dreamed of but has become my life’s journey.”

Since then, Mar has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok as well as San Francisco, Chicago and New York City. Now based in Hong Kong for the third time, she brings three decades of international experience to the Northwestern Alumni Association Board. As regional director for Asia, Mar serves as a liaison between the NAA and the region’s nine alumni clubs. She is also past chair of the Global Connections Committee, which works to engage more than 20,000 international alumni and enhance the University’s presence abroad; she remains involved in an advisory role.

“My goal is to help international alumni feel like they’re still a part of the Northwestern family,” Mar says. “I want to improve the connections our alumni have with our alma mater, support international clubs and help continue to build Northwestern’s reputation overseas.”

Under Mar’s leadership, the GCC sought to engage more international alumni who live in areas with no Northwestern clubs, as well as connect study abroad students with existing alumni clubs in their respective cities, says Tom Sitter ’93, who succeeded Mar as chair in September.

Mar also brings a talent for recruiting and networking, he adds, citing himself as an example. “Lisa identified a willingness within me to participate on the committee more fully,” says Sitter, who was elected to the NAA’s Board of Directors in September.

Mar began volunteering for Northwestern after moving to Hong Kong in 1987, where she started an Alumni Admission Council to interview high school applicants to the University. After becoming the youngest editor at the Economist Group, a global media company, she returned to Northwestern in 1992 to earn an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management to deepen her knowledge of marketing and finance.

After her time at Kellogg, she worked as a management consultant and in leadership roles for PepsiCo, Starbucks and EC Harris/Arcadis, while also volunteering as co-president of the Kellogg Alumni Club of New York, on the New York Regional Council and for several Northwestern and Kellogg reunion committees. She currently serves on the Medill Board of Advisers.

“One thing I like about volunteering with Northwestern is that it hasn’t mattered where I live,” says Mar, who launched her own management consulting business called the Mar Partnership in 2016.

Although her career path took an unexpected turn after Northwestern, Mar remains passionate about sports. She sails, scuba dives, skis, plays tennis and officiates dragon boat races in Hong Kong with her husband, Carl Wilkinson. Mar also serves on the boards of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Foundation and the Junior League. “What I do most on boards is ask a lot of questions,” she says. “That’s the journalist in me.”