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Stern Somebody: International Man of Mystery…and Analytics

The Oppy staff is proud to continue a new feature for the paper called “Stern Somebody” to tell the stories of remarkable classmates and how they became the exceptional people that they are today.

One of my favorite parts of Stern is discovering the fascinating backgrounds of my classmates. Henry Marsh, aka Hank, is, without doubt, one of the most interesting. This hilarious fellowBlock 2-er has a sharp wit he frequently shares with the class, as well as a passion for fine alcohol and analytics. What many of us do not know is that Hank has lived all around the world, attended high school in London, and spent two years teaching English in rural China after studying religion in Colorado. 

At Stern, he has found his groove as president of Cellar and become a minor celebrity by hosting Stern Chats. This week I am proud to have the opportunity to interview my friend Henry about his unusual life experiences and maybe score a scotch rec in the process.

Henry, welcome and thank you for sharing with the Stern community. First, the question on everyone’s mind: Hank or Henry?

It’s definitely context based. I leave it up to the person and situation. “Hank” started while drinking with people – it’s more of a party nickname than a real name. I leave it up to people – Hanky or Henry, either way, it’s fine.

How have you been spending the lockdown?

I ran a half-marathon last weekend. I’m, like, a runner now. You were one of the people who inspired me in your Stern Runner’s group chat.

Wow, impressive! I’m glad I could help. Where did you run?

It was supposed to be in Prospect Park but obviously that got cancelled. So my girlfriend, Allie, and I just ran way up the West Side Highway and then back down. We decided to just do it. Don’t worry, we were very socially conscious the whole time, too.

That’s more than I accomplished with that running group! How does it feel?

It feels good, honestly. It’s so hard to do this, but I actually developed a new habit. I like it because I can actually be outside, especially now, listen to something, and be by the water. It’s been the social pressure, after telling people I was going to do it, I signed up for another one in the fall. I’m going to kinda keep being that guy.

Congratulations on becoming that guy! 

You’ve lived all around the world, including going to high school in the UK. Why were you in London as a kid? And why don’t you have British accent?

(Laughs) Oh God. I’m from Westchester, NY, oldest of five, and when I was starting 6th grade in 2001, my dad had a work opportunity to move to London. It was supposed to be a three year thing and it became permanent. My parents are still there – it’s honestly kind of home for us.

I went to an International school with Americans and kids from all over the world. I actually never developed an accent and I can’t do one at all now. It’s a shame. All my siblings can do it. But most of my friends were American expats. Although I never had a British accent, my inflections and delivery were very British. I would say things like, “Do you have the time,” spoken in an American accent, but in that sing-songy British way. It made me sound like a weirdo – a very posh American boy.

After high school, you ended up at Colorado College – one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the region. What brought Mr. Posh Boy out west with us yokels mountaineers?

(Laughs) After being a posh boy, I transitioned to being really, really rugged. 

I loved hiking, fishing, and the outdoors, so when I was applying to school, I wasn’t really thinking about academics. I was thinking more about where I wanted to go, as a human being, and what would be a good fit for me. 

My mom went to Colorado College too, and so I felt I had a connection. So I applied early, got in, and pulled the trigger. Big time legacy at a small liberal arts college. (Laughs) 

It was weird applying to school from Europe; I didn’t want to go to the UK –  you apply to certain schools there and you are kind of locked into your career. I knew about a lot of big US colleges but I didn’t know a ton of people at different schools. But CC was a liberal arts school in a place I really wanted to be.

Alternatively, all four younger siblings went to Princeton, so, my saving grace is I didn’t even apply. Totally would have gotten in (laughs).

Henry crushing the rugged look.

I understand you were a religion major. Tell me more about studying religion for a full degree.

I was, yes (laughs). It’s a subject I’ve always been really interested in; if you think about it, religion has been the most important focus in human communities since the dawn of time. I was raised Christian, although not hardcore, but my parents do go to church. I still go to church myself periodically, and it is something I have been exploring since 6th grade, discussing it with my Dad.

Going to the international school in London, I was exposed to all these different faiths and it opened up a whole different world for me. So I wanted to go to school to discover more about that – it ended up being a great way to explore philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and even neuroscience and language in the brain. It was a great way to get a full humanities education.

Also, I am an ordained minister and I have officiated a wedding, so I have in fact put my degree to work. (Laughs)

More than most of us can say! After college, you spent several years in China teaching English. How did you land on that and what was that experience like?

Religion was actually what drove me to go to teach in China. My time in London and studying religion converged to make me want to go experience life elsewhere, especially China. In 2012 it seemed like such an important place to be and I was fascinated with its art and its philosophy. 

I decided to move there and taught at this university where I was one of ten foreigners in a “small” city of 2 million people. For me, it was a large city experience, but the city was very low-income and very industrial, although the people were very rural. I wouldn’t say it was authentic per se, but I wasn’t living deep in an expat community like in London or I might have if I had been in Shanghai. This was much more me being on my own in a Chinese city largely uninfluenced by western culture.

However, I wish I had learned a little bit of the language beforehand. It’s not like Spanish, where you can kind of figure it out. Despite this, I actually ended up learning a ton of Chinese while I was there. What I loved about it was living in a culture the opposite of what I grew up with. It was a great experience and it really taught me to be patient with things that weren’t exactly how I wanted or expected them to be.

Scholar of Chinese culture

Fast forwarding, what brought you to NYU Stern?

I felt like, in my career, I was trying to make a move into something different, and I was hitting a ton of road blocks. People kept telling me I needed an advanced degree to be qualified for the work I was interested in. I also felt like that with the religion undergrad degree there were so many gaps in my understanding of how a business works.

I really loved the campus and I actually cold emailed people at NYU to learn more. The students who responded were so, so nice – nicer than the other schools I emailed. I really wanted to be a part of this community. I am proud of this school and I wanted to be here very badly.

Well said! Now you’re not just here but a celebrity at Stern, part of the leadership in Cellar and the Business Analytics Club as well as a golden-voiced host of Stern Chats. What’s that experience been like?

Oh god (laughs). They’ve both been good. Stern Chats I was initially reluctant to do, but I’ve done a few interviews now and met really interesting people with whom I’ve had really interesting conversations, so I am really glad I did it. I also love, love podcasts and consume a ton of content, so it has been really fun to be on the other side of that. I’ve interviewed professors, notable alumni, and a lot of startup founders. It’s been pretty sweet.

Analytics in particular, I really love and we threw the analytics competition to help people learn and connect with this really important and interesting skill. It’s also a thing I feel like I am qualified in and that people can learn from me. Whereas other fields, I’m less well versed in and can make less of an impact.

Next is IBM. What is your goal long term?

I worked in the Chief Analytics Office of IBM this summer, where I was a hybrid of a strategy  consultant and product manager. It’s funny, I’ve lived all around the world and I’m heading back home to Westchester for work. 

What are you looking forward to most about returning to the working world?

I’m very ambitious, I loved the work, I’m excited to make genuine connections with people, learn a ton about analytics products, and do a ton of great work – and I’ll see where that takes me.

Graduation is coming up, at least administratively. What are you going to miss about Stern? About being in school?

I’m definitely looking forward to going outside and doing normal things again, unrelated to graduating. But I love school so much, and our community, and I’m actually a little nervous about losing connections with my friends and classmates.

But even more I’m really excited to see where our class goes and what everyone does. I’ve met some seriously smart and talented people and I look forward to finding out what the future holds for everybody.

You’re interviewing me next, right?

Oh yeah 100%, (laughs), if it’s ever up and running. But I’m going to make you come after Nnamdi too, so…

Finally, last question, what Scotch are you recommending for the lock down?

I love a peaty, smokey Scotch, so I have to go with Laphroaig.

Thank you Hank and be safe for the rest of the lockdown!

If you would like to nominate a classmate for future features of the Stern Spotlight, please email the Oppy staff at Oppy@stern.nyu.edu.

One Comment

  1. Joan Marsh Joan Marsh April 4, 2020

    What an indepth interview with our first born grandchild! All the things we hoped for for Henry, and especially for his wonderful time
    at Stern, came though in the thoughtful and informed interview. Congratulations James Prager on rising above the complications of the
    quarantine and bringing us better journalism.

    Thank you! and Hi, Henry, from G and P in 4th week of quarantine in Kansas City

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