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Week of April 23, 2012

Staff Spotlight

ITS employee chases thrills by skydiving, BASE jumping

Risk has been a prevalent theme in Mark McManamay’s life. The application developer lead for Information & Technology Services has spent the last 20 years as a skydiving enthusiast.

“When I made my first jump, I crawled out onto the wing, and I was shaking I was so scared. Then there was a point when I became more afraid of my instructor than letting go, so I just let go,” says McManamay, whose initial decision to skydive was made on a whim.

Photo by Lon Horwedel, Michigan Photography.

After his first jump, McManamay was back two days later to do it all over again. “I went for my second jump and thought it was just as scary and terrifying as the first time. And then I went back out there a couple of days later for another jump and the next thing you know, I was there every single weekend,” says McManamay, who became a parachute rigger after three years of skydiving. Not just anyone can fulfill this role. A rigger is specially trained or licensed to pack, maintain or repair parachutes.

McManamay also decided to teach others to jump.

“One of the reasons I became an instructor is because I wanted to be a part of the students’ first jump, when they come up to me afterward and tell me they want to do it again because it was so amazing,” says McManamay, who has been an instructor for 18 years.

When McManamay came to U-M 12 years ago, he transitioned from working with skydiving students to working with students on campus as an ITS programmer. “I started working here on the student administration systems, mostly for recruiting and admissions, worked on student registration for a while, and then payroll” he says.

Recently McManamay moved over to the mobile applications team to help other developers create the Android version of the Michigan app that combines apps for the Directory, Magic Bus, the dining halls, etc... “We want to bring important information together for the students, like what dining hall Taco Tuesday is going to be in, because we understand the importance of Taco Tuesday to students,” he says with a laugh.

The ability to integrate students’ ideas, as well as working with other organizations, is what McManamay finds most compelling about his role with the university. “Right now we’re collaborating with other institutions, such as Cornell and Indiana University on mobile app development, which is really unique to the university needs,” he says.

More recently, McManamay has become involved in BASE jumping, which means jumping with a parachute from fixed locations such as buildings, aerials, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs). Once he took part in 200 skydiving jumps, McManamay decided to attend the annual Bridge Day in West Virginia, where they allow around 500 people to BASE jump the New River Gorge Bridge. “BASE jumping is more horrifying than skydiving because you’re stationary and you’re actually stepping off the edge of the earth,” he says.

“There’s this point, I always explain to people, when you’re on the edge you’re still thinking that you can catch yourself, but then you realize that you’re leaving, and that’s when everything hits you at once. That’s when you know you’re fully committed to it. It’s the step of commitment.”

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Mark McManamay, application developer lead, Information & Technology Services, on BASE jumping: “There’s a point when you know you’re leaving, and that’s when everything hits you at once.”


“Campin’ Spot” from Brighter Michigan: Photography by Exposure.Detroit, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. through June 11, Gifts of Art Gallery, Taubman Health Center, South Lobby, Floor 1.

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