When Mark Lenza was a 19-year-old freshman at Wilmington College, he made a teenager’s rash decision that ended up being one of the smarter choices of his life.
“Dr. Ross was president of Wilmington and he said, ‘I’m going to Boca Raton. You should come, too,’” Lenza said. “So Greg Malfitano and I sort of followed him blind. I was 19. It was Florida. It sounded good to me and I went.”
Lenza has never looked back. Except to reminisce.
“It was all two-lane roads back then. They dragged alligators out of the ponds once a month. They were clearing land for the Town Center Mall and that was the last year I saw a bobcat,” he said. “It was a wild place.”
Lenza and his friends from College of Boca Raton—it became Lynn in 1990—and the little two-year college down the road called Florida Atlantic, used to meet at the beach, where bonfires and keg parties were the norm. “And you could park on A1A. There were hardly any people in Boca. The police left us alone to be college kids.”
His college buddies gave him the nickname Mario Too, and they bounced back and forth between College of Boca Raton and FAU, playing flag football, meeting friends at the Rathskeller—both campuses had bars by that name—and hitting the dance floor at Big Daddy’s, which at that time featured a light-up dance floor and walls covered in the finest green shag carpeting 1975 could offer.
Lenza also played baseball. The college did not have its own team then, so he played for the Fort Lauderdale Baseball School. After graduating with a hospitality and management degree, he took up an offer from a scout to play professionally in Italy.
“In Rome,” he said, “they wanted American players of Italian descent. I fit the bill.
In addition to his salary, his pay included a car and an apartment. He turned 22 in Florence, playing against their local team.
After a year, he returned to South Florida to work at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, then made another smart decision.
“I started working for UPS,” he said.
Parents who worked for DuPont in Delaware had instilled in the Lenza kids the wisdom of finding a steady job with medical benefits and a pension.
“I never thought I would reach the point of collecting a pension,” Lenza said, “but I listened to my parents and it really worked out.”
He drove UPS trucks for seven years to secure a Teamster’s pension, then worked for FedEx for 21 years, retiring with a pension. He says he went from the largest airline in the world—FedEx—to the largest real estate company in the world—Coldwell Banker. For 28 years, Lenza has been a real estate agent, his pensions a nice cushion against the market’s ups and downs. He works in Coldwell Banker’s Delray Beach office.
“Delray is hot right now,” he said. “The Wall Street Journal had three positive articles about Delray last year. That does good things for the real estate business.”
With his college buddy serving as senior vice president for development and administration at his alma mater, Lenza joked that it’s impossible to be anything but a loyal donor. He plays every year in the Robino Golf Classic. And he likes to support scholarships for athletes.
“Greg Malfitano calls and I write a check,” he said, laughing.
Lenza has two daughters, one grandson and one granddaughter. He hopes one day his grandkids will make the good choice to follow in his footsteps to Lynn.
“I’m glad I came here and I’m glad I stayed,” he said. “It was a smart decision.”