Something interesting, wonderful and quite unexpected happened for Margie (Mendicino) Harris during a November 2018 weekend visit to campus.
Harris and her husband, Mark, had traveled from their home in Houston to Columbus for an Ohio State- and Fisher-filled weekend. As a member of the Fisher Alumni Board, Margie Harris (BSBA ’82) had a meeting scheduled for that Friday, which is when she learned that she was about to meet someone special who would also be available to join her that evening at the annual Fisher Alumni Awards.
For Harris, this Alumni Awards event was going to be a particularly special occasion because she would be surrounded by her family, including three of her siblings who had traveled from across the country to show their support, when she received the Excellence in Service Award.
And, of course, the following day would be devoted to watching the Buckeyes defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the ’Shoe.
So with such an event-filled weekend, it’s hard to imagine anything making Harris’ time in Columbus even more memorable.
But there was something that would happen that would make it even more special — Harris met the young woman who is currently benefitting from the scholarship fund Harris established.
That young woman is Lexie Smith, a third-year student studying human resources.
Harris’ joy was shared by her family members, including her twin sister, Marcia Mendicino Pfefferle, who also graduated from the College of Business in 1982.
“My sister and I worked very hard at Ohio State, in and out of the classroom, and that laid the foundation for our future success,” Harris said. “We were both very, very touched by meeting Lexie because she demonstrated the work ethic and values that were similar to ours as students. It was such a joy to give back to someone so deserving.”
Months later, when describing her feelings about meeting Smith, Harris finds it difficult to put the experience into words.
“I can’t even tell you what meeting Lexie meant to me,” she said. “It cemented the fact that there was someone behind the gift — somebody who could benefit from it.”
Harris has been a steadfast supporter of The Ohio State University and the Max M. Fisher College of Business for several years. She’s been a consistent donor and has paid forward by sharing her time, treasure and insights.
But the meetintgs with Smith that weekend were more than just opportunities for Harris to meet a business leader of tomorrow. In a sense, they provided her a glimpse into the past, as she saw in Smith a version her younger self. In addition to being hard-working, driven and highly motivated students at Ohio State, both women earned the Pace Setter Award, Fisher’s highest honor that is awarded to the top 1 percent of undergraduate students at the college, based on academic performance, leadership and service.
“I know that Lexie works during the school year and every summer to help her parents fund her education,” Harris said. “And, so in a lot of ways, she’s a lot like I was.”
Since graduating from Ohio State, Harris has called Houston home, but her ties to the university and to Columbus run deep — so do her siblings’ ties. She grew up in the shadow of campus in Upper Arlington as one of five children — including two sets of twins. In addition to Margie and her twin sister Marcia, twin brothers James and John Mendicino graduated from the college in 1989. Harris’ elder sister, Cindy Mendicino (BA ’79), earned her degree from Ohio State in journalism.
As a student in the College of Business, Harris was an honors finance major and worked summers in the college’s Graduate Programs Office. She credits her experiences at the university — both academics and serving as a student employee — with shaping who she is today.
“A lot of things shape one’s life, and I’ve been very successful, especially for a woman of my generation to reach where I am in my career,” she said. “And when I look back, I think Ohio State really provided a technical business degree and some really good foundational skills.”
“Ohio State was really transformational in my becoming a business woman with the readiness to face challenges in the business world. My college experience really prepared me for my professional career.”
Although Harris’ career began in finance, eventually she saw opportunity to apply her understanding of finance to managing human capital. For the last 25 years, she’s held C-suite roles in HR for both public and private firms, including fast-growing Fortune 1,000 and Fortune 200 companies. Today, she serves as the senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Tellurian Inc., a startup that focuses on the production and global delivery of liquefied natural gas.
“I left Ohio right after graduation and worked for Shell Oil on the commercial side of the business, and then I went on to be a controller of a large airline — Continental Airlines. Next, I worked in human capital consulting and then corporate HR,” she said. “Professionally, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to have three or four different careers that all led me to a profound and successful career in HR.”
Since their initial meetings during that weekend in November 2018, Harris and Smith have remained in contact, which has allowed them to form a mentoring relationship.
“Whatever role she starts in may not be what she ends her career as, but I advised her to take advantage of everything she can at the university and in life,” Harris said. “I’ve shared the same advice with Lexie that I’ve shared with other college students, including my son, Payton, a first-year student at Texas Tech University.”
“Be a continuous learner. Just because you graduate from college, that’s not the end of your education.”
As a student at Fisher, Smith maintains a full schedule. In addition to her academic responsibilities and work as a peer impact consultant in the college’s Undergraduate Programs Office, she’s highly engaged in the Fisher community where she participates in Fisher Impact Day, BuckeyeThon and the Fisher Early Arrival program, and serves as president of FisherCares. She’s also a member of the Undergraduate Programming Committee, the Student Organization Recognition Committee and the Fisher Peer Mentorship program.
Beyond campus, she makes an impact by serving as a puppy sitter for 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization that places service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities.
Looking ahead to her career in HR, Smith also is a member of the college’s Human Resources Association, where she’s been elected to serve as president during the 2019-2020 academic year. After graduation, she intends to enroll in Fisher’s Master of Human Resources Management program.
Smith describes meeting Harris as an amazing experience.
“I had the opportunity to sit with Margie and her family at the Fisher Alumni Awards ceremony where I watched her receive the Excellence in Service Award,” she said. “I truly enjoyed the conversations I had with her family, and her speech highlighting her wide-spread impact inspired me.”
But their chance meeting would not be their last.
“I met with Margie again when she was in Columbus for another alumni event,” Smith said. “It was the night before a very important interview, and she sat with me for over an hour going over my résumé and asking me questions. I am so grateful she took the time so late in the evening to help me prepare. I appreciate the continued support Margie has provided for me throughout the past year. Words cannot describe how much I appreciate her and her contributions.”
“I look forward to keeping in touch with Margie in the future.”
And that sentiment is shared by Harris, who’s been deeply moved by seeing the impact of her gift.
“I’m forming a relationship with someone I hope I can mentor in the years to come — even after she graduates and begins her professional career.”