October 20, 2023

For a shy kid, the public library around the corner from Mark Hall’s Houston home was a haven and a portal to adventure. In the real world, he struggled to belong, but books transported him to other realities and exposed him to inspiring ideas.  

“I would be a different person had I not had access to that library,” Hall reflected. “I loved going there to check out books. It was a door to the wider world.” 

Years later, Hall ’84 would explore the wider world in person as he studied and worked abroad as a lawyer, businessman and documentary filmmaker, but he never lost his passion for the printed word.  

As technology advances, Hall is increasingly drawn to books—the real, printed and bound, hold-them-in-your-hands and keep-them-forever kind. In the age of cryptocurrency, AI-generated content and the never-ending news cycle, books have never felt more compelling.  

Once Hall’s escape from physical reality, books are now his way back into the real world as material objects of authenticity and permanence. After all, Hall said, “It’s much harder to fake a book.”  

Software Sense and Antique Sensibilities 

Hall was born in Panama to American parents and relocated to Houston around kindergarten. As an only child, he found companionship in books. His love of reading became a love of learning, which led to excellence in the classroom and a lifelong curiosity about the world. At Texas A&M University, Hall majored in finance but also joined the pre-law society, eventually serving as the organization’s president.   

Libraries like Cushing need support to preserve the printed word for generations to come."
- Mark Hall ’84

While Hall values the access to information delivered by the digital age, he wonders about the long-term security and reliability of a digital-only system. What would happen if the world’s libraries could be wiped out with a magnetic burst in the atmosphere or a cyberattack? “I think we owe it to our civilization to preserve our beliefs, our stories and our myths, and I don’t think the containers to hold them will be digital in the long run,” he predicted. “I think they’ll have to be printed and held in institutions like Cushing Library.”  

That’s what led Hall to make a generous estate gift to the Texas A&M Foundation to grow the printing history and book arts program. “Libraries like Cushing need support to preserve the printed word for generations to come. I’ll be very happy if my gift helps advance that goal, not just for Texas A&M students but also for people in the surrounding communities,” he said, noting that he hopes Cushing Library could one day offer book arts workshops to area children to increase literacy.  

As an attorney, Hall was aware of the importance of estate planning. “I’ve seen several people pass away without wills, and I know how chaotic that is for their family and friends,” he said. “The Texas A&M Foundation made it an easy process to support my passions. I wanted a permanent, well-managed place to put my assets someday. My estate will go to a good institution that will honor my wishes. Knowing that gives me a lot of peace.” 

Some of Hall’s rare books will also be added to Cushing’s collection as part of his estate. For the boy who loved visiting the public library, whose world was enlarged by the shelves of stories he found there, it’s a fitting gift that honors his past as well as the future of the printed word. 

To join Hall in preserving the past by planning a gift to support the future of Cushing Library’s printing history and book arts program, contact Jennifer Hester '98 at the bottom of this page.