Alumni-Athlete Spotlight: Spencer Marzouk - New England College

Alumni-Athlete Spotlight: Spencer Marzouk

NEC alumnus Spencer Marzouk

This article appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of New England College Magazine.

MBA, Harvard Business School
Business Administration ’12
Sport Played at NEC: Basketball

All athletes, it seems, describe themselves as having been competitive for as long as they can remember, but NEC alumni Spencer Marzouk now competes in a different way. “I have learned that being a competitive person, at its core, is less about measuring yourself up to others and more about becoming the best version of yourself,” he explains. “I now focus on how I can improve each day. I surround myself with people and situations that make me better.”

His philosophy started to take shape from his earliest days at NEC. Two weeks into his first semester, Spencer lost his mother to cancer and almost dropped out. A year and a half later, he tragically lost classmate and friend Dana Poole. This rough start changed his perspective. “I began to see college not as an entitled rite of passage but as a privilege and opportunity,” he says. “It’s amazing what can happen when you shift your thinking from ‘What do I need to do to get by?’ to ‘Wow, I am lucky to have this day. How can I contribute?’” Spencer answered this question by saying “yes” to more leadership roles on campus and expanding his activities from basketball to the NEC community as a whole.

After NEC, Spencer wanted to honor his mother through active citizenship. He applied to Teach for America and committed to two years of teaching eighth-grade algebra in rural Alabama. At his school in Lowndes County, 99 percent of students receive free lunch, 50 percent live in poverty, and only around 15 percent graduate college. The self-perpetuating narrative of unemployment, drugs, and poverty, he says, inspired him to help his students overcome this cycle. He started by augmenting algebra class with lessons in financial skills, citizenship, and career opportunities. From there, he raised some capital and took 16 students to New York City to meet with a variety of companies—the New York Stock Exchange, Goldman Sachs, Uber, Google, Facebook, and the set of Good Morning America—so those students could see what was possible.

“To supplement the program, I built personalized mentor networks and partnered with college test prep tutors,” Spencer adds. “The results were almost immediate. Students not only performed better in the classroom, but they also gained access to a network that would later provide high school and college internships along with career coaching.” This program became The Dream Initiative, and its sustainability is Spencer’s proudest accomplishment.

His role with The Dream Initiative led him to cross paths with the CEO of Tupperware Brands, who offered Spencer a job. He went to Europe to be part of a team that transformed Tupperware’s business model in that region before settling in Frankurt, Germany for four years. His long-time goal of attending business school, specifically at Harvard, led him back to the U.S.

“For the record, I don’t consider myself a success by any means,” Spencer states humbly, but he believes that athletics serve as one of the greatest leadership development platforms in the world.

As he says, in no other way does public education develop the essential leadership skills—perseverance, grit, communication, teamwork, discipline, empathy, resilience, enthusiasm, motivation, and persistence—that can directly translate to success in life.

Spencer adds that success cannot be achieved without failure. “At NEC, I learned the art of humility and falling in love with failure. There’s no fault in failure; the only fault lies in not learning from it. My advice to anyone is fail often and fail forward.”

Your Future Starts at NEC