Malibu city leaders remembered Morley Construction CEO and President Mark Benjamin Tuesday as a reasonable man committed to education in Malibu and throughout its shared school district with Santa Monica. Benjamin, 63, is believed to have died in an airplane crash Sunday night in Santa Monica, along with his son Lucas and two other people.
The dedication appears to have sprung from his commitment to his children, Matthew and Lucas, which he shared in a 2005 Malibu Times story on Father’s Day.
Benjamin recalled driving home on the day his first son, Matthew, was born.
“I drove home, and sat in the car, and thought, ‘Well, it’s not about me anymore.”
Being a dad, Benjamin said, meant that the child comes first.
“The world looks differently—now it is through a lens of how can I make them become good people,” he said.
Malibu City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, an education advocate, knew Benjamin through many school functions dating back to the late 1990s. She recalled that he “loved flying.”
“He loved going up to Sun Valley (Idaho), he had a beautiful house up there. He was just a very warm, generous guy,” Rosenthal said. “Always willing to help, very generous to our community and schools.”
Benjamin’s company, Morley Construction, was one of the largest construction companies in Southern California. The company, based in Santa Monica, has more than 200 employees and an annual work volume of more than $300 million, according to the company’s site. It worked on major projects such as the renovation of the Getty Villa, among others.
Jeff Jennings, head of the Malibu Planning Commission and a former Mayor, said Benjamin was instrumental in the creation of Malibu High School.
“Mark was a tremendous asset for the school district as a whole and for Malibu’s part of the school district in particular,” Jennings said. “Because he was such a major figure in Santa Monica his voice carried a lot of weight, and he had a lot of influence with the school board.”
Jennings recalled Benjamin as warm, friendly and rational, and a major supporter of the school district. When the prospect of a Malibu high school originally faced opposition in Santa Monica, Benjamin’s presence helped ground the process, Jennings said, because he cared about the school district as a whole.
“Because of his demeanor and his rational approach he was able to present Malibu’s position in a way that it got a fair hearing, and we relied on him extensively in all the projects I worked on,” Jennings said. “It’s a huge blow to Malibu and the school district as a whole.”