Mark Leader Obituary, Death – Mark Leader . Sioux Falls – Mark Stephen Shlanta, age 57, passed away on January 17, 2023 at his home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was a husband and father, as well as a leader and volunteer. He had battled cancer for two years while living his life to the fullest and without fear. The news of Mark Leader’s passing has left the NBL in a state of mourning. Mark participated in 327 National Basketball League games, scored more over 4,000 points, and helped the North Melbourne Giants to win two titles. Our prayers are with the Leader family and all of those who were close to Mr. Leader during this difficult time.
On February 14, 1965, Mark Shlanta was born to parents Stephen and Gail Shlanta in the city of Corvallis, Oregon. Mark was a member of the Boy Scouts (he earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1980) and the Brookings Swim Club while he was growing up in Brookings, South Dakota. He made the trip to Sioux Falls in the middle of his junior year and attended Lincoln High School until he graduated in 1983.
Mark received the honor of being a “Knight of St. Patrick” for his leadership in the Athletic Club while he was a student at the University of Missouri at Rolla, where he also achieved the level of success as an All-American swimmer. Mark began his academic career in 1989 by earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Shortly after that, he went on to get a master’s degree in engineering management and a professional engineering certification. Mark started his career in the field of telecommunications with Contel Communications in Wentzville, Missouri. There, he was responsible for upgrading commercial networks to fiber optic connections and modernizing residential telephone services by switching multi-party lines to private ones.
Peggy Lottes would become his unending valentine not long after he launched his professional career. After being married in 1992, the pair moved to Lake St. Louis, Missouri, where they welcomed sons Michael and Karl into the world shortly after. In 1998, Mark started a new job at SDN Communications, so the family uprooted and relocated to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Not long after the move, they became parents to sons Joseph and Scott.
The field of technology and communications in South Dakota underwent significant shifts as a result of Mark’s 23 years of service at SDN, including 21 years as CEO. During his time in office, he was responsible for extending the fiber optic network into eight additional states and bringing its total mileage in South Dakota to 50,000. Under his direction, SDN successfully constructed a data center and initiated operations as a provider of cybersecurity services.
His work in broadening access to broadband and improving cybersecurity attracted notice on a national scale. He testified as an expert witness for numerous different committees in the United States Congress. In 2015, he was recognized as an Evolutionary for the Progressive Rural Network by an international business journal.