2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner: Distinguished Service
Mark Banta (87C)
When Atlanta Magazine issues its annual list of the "Atlanta 500," Mark Banta (82C) is regularly included among the ranks of the city's most powerful leaders.
The Berry agriculture major has been named to the list multiple times for his work as president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a donor-funded organization that enhances and preserves the park as a cultural and recreational resource for Atlanta. The park, which Banta refers to as "Atlanta's green heart," thrived under his leadership with park attendance increasing from 4 million annually to more than 6 million. The organization is today considered one of the most successful conservancies in the country.
The job was a perfect fit for Banta, who traces his love of the outdoors to his childhood. "With five children, Mom's rule was 'If the sun is out, kids are out.' Fishing, hunting and the outdoors have always been a part of my life. My summers were spent on my uncle's Indiana farm, reinforcing my love of nature and helping set my early work ethic and appreciation for the healthy outdoor farmer's life."
Early on, he identified important criteria for his future career. First, his work needed to touch people's lives in a positive way, and second, he "did not want to wear a tie every day or sit behind a desk the whole time."
Admittedly wearing his share of ties (but not every day!), Banta has built what he described as "four amazing careers." He served 12 years at the University of Georgia's College of Agriculture and Environmental Science before stepping into the role of general manager of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, beginning with its opening in 1996. He then relocated to Dallas, Texas, where he oversaw construction and the opening of Klyde Warren Park. Through it all, his focus has been on preserving and enhancing parks as recreational, cultural and community resources for cities. Dallas' D Magazine called him a "green industry and parks expert."
When he retired from the Piedmont Park Conservancy earlier this year, he left a stable organization with a strong financial footing.
"I have been very fortunate to find opportunities that provided growth potential, allowed me to help others, be outdoors some of the time and provide a sufficient life for my family," he added.
Banta and wife Anita Marion Banta (81C) make their home in Fayetteville, Georgia.