Mark Tilton passed at the age of 83 on Sunday, January 16, 2022. His legacy and loss are deeply felt by his family, friends, and our New Hampton School community. His students and colleagues have connected with him through many roles through decades of his work; as a friend, mentor, coach, advisor, house parent, teacher—in short, he was akin to family to many. He was a true friend and leader.
A native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Mark attended Portsmouth High School, where he participated in football, basketball, and track. He went on to University of New Hampshire for his undergraduate degree and received his Master’s in Education from University of Southern Maine. Before arriving in New Hampton, Mark taught at Berlin High School beginning in 1964 for a notable 22 years, both as a teacher and coach. His time at New Hampton School began as a parent, as his son Jon ’83 completed a postgraduate year. Three years later, in 1986, Mark was hired by Headmaster Lou Gnerre.
Family, Friend, and Mentor
The Tilton family soon became ingrained in campus life, including his wife Sandy, his four children (Jennifer, Paul, Jay ’88, and Jon ’83), and several grandchildren—many of whom also attended New Hampton School over the years and provided many additional opportunities for Mark to visit campus, whether cheering them on at their games, attending Grandparents Day, and standing beside them at each of their Commencements. His daughter Jennifer (Tilton) McMahon joined the faculty at the School, arriving in 1989, where she currently serves as the Director of Studies. He was a proud and devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
Mark’s tenure highlighted a commitment to education and the value of a strong work ethic, the merit of being a team player, and a good person. Throughout his years here, he served as a mentor, teacher, coach, dorm parent, and even as an Athletic Director for a time. In speaking of Coach Tilton, who immediately found his way onto the game fields and courts, there is always much to commend. Mark’s junior varsity football team went undefeated in his first year. His varsity B men’s basketball team captured the Lakes Region Championship the following year. Mark was part of four varsity football championships, three men’s varsity A basketball championships (one as an assistant coach and two as head coach), and three women’s basketball championships. The women’s program thrived under his leadership, growing from a Class C to a Class A over the years. None of his teams experienced a losing season.
A Life Well-Lived
When thinking about Mark and his incredible relationship-building ability, it is also notable that he earned the respect of coaches, teams, and directors at peer schools and club programs in addition to his colleagues at New Hampton School. And when Mark called on alumni to come back to Reunion, to Powder Keg, or to honor a teammate—people always rallied in response. He was the honored speaker at the School’s 183rd Commencement in 2005, and numerous yearbooks were dedicated in his honor by his students. Mark seemed to leave an impression on all who knew him, no matter how short of a time together, not the least of which was through his frequent aphorisms.
Years of alumni and faculty alike benefitted in the wisdom of his tenets. On being true to yourself, he shared, “Be what you is, because if you be what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.” If Mark was anything, he was his authentic self, so these words reflect his wish for everyone—to be yourself, above all. Another perennial favorite in the classroom, from a piece titled Attitude, came the weighty reminder, “Attitude is more important than facts.”
And while Mark implored his students to be authentic and to “step up”, he also offered wisdom in reaching goals. As one of the most quoted pieces of his advice, we are reminded of the brevity of life when making decisions and how to move forward with good choices. Tilton shared, “The reason most people fail instead of succeed is because they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment. Remember what you want most.”
As his friend and colleague Harrison Golden shared at Mark’s Athletic Hall of Fame induction in 2010, “wins and championships are a small measure of Mark Tilton’s stature because he is prouder of the successes his players have in the classroom and in life. Players, whether they went on to play at Syracuse, Indiana, or Merrimack College, frequently return to visit a coach who was more concerned with them being good people than skilled athletes.”
An Inspiring Role Model
After 43 years serving as an educator, Mark completed his New Hampton School tenure in 2007, retiring to his log cabin in Gorham, New Hampshire, with his wife, Sandy. He continued to engage with our community with frequent campus visits, support of the alumni office, as a long-standing committee member of the Athletic Hall of Fame, and as a sideline and courtside supporter of the games he loved so much. He was always available to talk, offer advice, and catch up on old times.
And yet, he still found time to volunteer in organizations he was passionate about. Mark helped coach the C.H.A.D. All-Star Football team, and was a volunteer coach at the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Boys Club ABA Camp for 30 years. He was honored for his lifetime of efforts in the New Hampton Athletic Hall of Fame (in the coach category in 2010, team category in 2018), the Lawrence Boys Club Hall of Fame, the NHIAA Coaches Hall of Fame, and with the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Walter A. Smith Coaches Award in 2016.
“Mark Tilton was one of those rare individuals whose warmth and compassion enabled him to touch the lives of all who were fortunate to spend time with him,” Head of School Joe Williams reflects. “He had the appearance of a fierce competitor, which he was, but a heart of gold, and that is what mattered most. Mark’s legacy will live on at New Hampton, serving as a model for others to aspire to.”
Remembering his legacy
Mark is survived by his wife Sandra (Milburn) Tilton of Gorham, NH; four children: Jennifer McMahon & husband James of New Hampton, NH, Jon Tilton and wife Tami of Groveland, MA, Paul Tilton and wife Susan of West Barnstable, MA, and Jay Tilton and wife Darcy of Exeter, NH; he was “Poppy” to nine grandchildren: Liam, Kay, Owen, and T.J. McMahon, Molly, Zeb, Emma, Zack, and Cameron Tilton. Other survivors include his sister Joan Azulay of Austin, TX, and several nephews. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and all of those touched by his life.
Services will be private. A Celebration of Life, open to the public, will be announced at a later date. Please visit the official announcement from the family online, and join us in keeping Mark’s family and friends in your thoughts in the days ahead. You may share memories on www.newhampton.org/marktilton, as well as view photos and more in remembrance of Mark Tilton.