Cover photo for Mark Fossett's Obituary
Mark Fossett Profile Photo
1953 Mark 2023

Mark Fossett

December 17, 1953 — June 21, 2023

Mark Fossett was a remarkable person (who would appreciate the pun) – a quintessential dad, cherished friend, respected professor, and thoughtful man who “gave a damn” about the world in which he and others lived. Born in Aransas Pass, Texas on December 17, 1953, Mark passed away unexpectedly on June 21, 2023, following complications from surgery.

After a series of cross-country moves, Mark grew up on the Texas coast in Ingleside, where he, Pat, and Donna attended school and Mark met his future wife, Betsy, in elementary school. Their childhood on the gulf included plenty of hijinks – firecrackers in an unsuspecting victims’ back pocket, lever-action Daisy BB guns, stitches from embedded fishhooks, and running around barefoot on the dunes of Port Aransas. As the oldest, he often took on a leadership role among his siblings – teaching his brother Pat the finer points of mowing lawns for spending money and rescuing Donna after a stingray sting. In high school, Mark’s friend, Rex Wright, taught the boys to surf, leading to summer afternoons with a convertible Corvair loaded with surfboards and headed for the beach whenever they had gas money. Usually an exemplary student, a day of perfect surf conditions was the rare temptation to skip class in favor of the beach.

After graduating high school, Mark was the first in his family to go to college, receiving his BA, MA, and eventually his PhD in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. He and Betsy moved to Louisiana in 1983, where Mark taught at LSU and their eldest son Lane was born. They moved to Austin in 1986, where Mark taught at the University of Texas for five years, during which time their son Tyler was born. In 1989, he accepted a position in the sociology department at A&M and commuted from Austin for over a year. Eventually, he and Betsy bought a family home in College Station where their daughter Kate was born, and they raised all three children. At family gatherings, he could always be relied upon for two things: bringing out his tripod to capture a family photo before the group dispersed and falling asleep at an early hour. When asked about parenting, Mark swore that the best gift for kids was a giant pile of dirt: simultaneously, a mountain to climb, a site to excavate, or a mound for pitching – a pile of dirt had it all.

Mark was a distinguished professor of sociology at Texas A&M for 34 years. His research and teaching interests included racial and ethnic segregation and inequality, urban and spatial demography, social demography, computational methods, quantitative research methods, and demographic techniques. His students often cited him as a formative influence in their future paths, noting his continuous guidance, support, and encouragement from graduate courses through dissertations. Several of his former students went on to become professors and fondly remember his impact as they instruct their own classes. His technical skills were such that he once found an error in a widely used demographic analysis program and wrote to the company to let them know of the issue. After a brief period of denial, the company soon conceded, and Mark taught his students how to adjust for their mistake on outdated software. In 2010, Mark and a team of colleagues began work to establish the Texas Federal Statistical Research Data Center (TXRDC) at Texas A&M; he served as its founding director from 2011-2020. At the time of its creation, the TXRDC was the only such center in the central and southern regions of the United States, making it a magnet for high level researchers in a variety of fields, including demography, public health, economics, agriculture, business, and sociology. Its establishment was the crowning jewel of Mark’s numerous accomplishments in his 40-year career as a sociologist and demographer.

Given his early years on the Texas coast, Mark’s love of the ocean was deeply ingrained, and he was always an avid surfer. Mark kept an eager eye on the surf conditions near the family homestead in Ingleside and he and Betsy often happily drove the 3+ hours to the coast for a weekend of surf and seashell-hunting. When the kids were teenagers, he and Betsy took the family to Hawaii for some prime surf time. Mark was an also enthusiastic baseball fan, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball statistics and passing his love of the game along to his children. He coached both Lane and Tyler in little league in College Station and was a lifelong Houston Astros fan.

Mark was an accomplished disc golfer and could often be found on local courses with a friend, a couple of IPAs, and a bag full of discs. Always on the lookout for new courses and playing buddies, he gifted the entire family sets of discs one Christmas, “wrapped” in his signature style: a single pre-made bow and post-it nametag. Despite his unequivocal superiority with a disc, Mark brought his professorial nature to the course, doling out tips and praise alongside an appropriate amount of trash-talk.

He was preceded in death by his father, Pat, and mother, Carolyn, whom he cared for diligently in her later years as she struggled with dementia.

He is survived by Betsy, his wife of 48 years; their children, Lane, Tyler, and Kate; granddaughter Flora; and his siblings, Donna and Pat. His loss will be profoundly felt by an extensive network of family, friends, and colleagues.

A celebration of Mark’s life will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2023 at Hillier of COLLEGE STATION at 11:00 AM, followed by a lunch reception at Blackwater Draw Brewing in Bryan. In honor of Mark’s love of the coast and distaste for formalwear, guests are requested to don Hawaiian shirts and/or summer wear for the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Dr. Mark Fossett Memorial Fund, which has been created to support Texas A&M graduate students working on a project in the Texas Research Data Center (TXRDC) or preparing a proposal to do research in the TXRDC. Students will be able to apply for conference travel funds to present results from a TXRDC project or for assistance with project needs such as fees or summer support. To contribute online, visit Texas A&M Foundation, select “unlisted account” from the dropdown menu under “Select a Unit or College”, and enter account name and number: 02-512709-10000 – Dr. Mark Fossett Memorial.

To order memorial trees in memory of Mark Fossett, please visit our tree store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, August 5, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Hillier Funeral Home of College Station

4080 Texas 6 Frontage Rd, College Station, TX 77845

In honor of Mark’s love of the coast and distaste for formal wear, guests are requested to don Hawaiian shirts and/or summer wear for the service.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Reception and Lunch

Saturday, August 5, 2023

12:00 - 1:00 pm (Central time)

Blackwater Draw Brewing Company

701 N Main St, Bryan, TX 77803

In honor of Mark’s love of the coast and distaste for formal wear, guests are requested to don Hawaiian shirts and/or summer wear for the service.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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