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Unsung Heroes: NYSE's Marchman Invests in Harlem Youths

This story is part of our weeklong series, Unsung Heroes. Please see our introduction.

As befits his position as vice president for enforcement at the

New York Stock Exchange

,

Robert Marchman's

wardrobe is pure Wall Street.

Red suspenders emblazoned with playing-card logos slice down the front of his pinstriped shirt. A Mont Blanc pen peeps from his breast pocket. A gold bracelet adorns his right wrist. Sitting in his corner office on the 28th floor of the World Trade Center, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, this is a man planted squarely in the world of finance.

But unlike the rest of our Unsung Heroes, Marchman isn't being lauded for his on-the-job market calls. Instead, we recognize him because he is long the sixth-graders at Harlem's P.S. 125. Once a month, as a volunteer for

Junior Achievement

of New York, Marchman hops on the No. 9 train uptown to visit the class, exhorting the kids to make education a priority.

"It's important to reach them at a point in their lives when you can make a difference in how they view the world and how they view themselves," says 40-year-old Marchman.

Colorado Springs-based Junior Achievement is a nonprofit economic education group aiming to teach kids in almost 100 countries about business, economics and the value of free enterprise. In the U.S. alone, it reaches 2.6 million kids a year.

Junior Achievement volunteers usually commit to one semester, but Marchman stays with the same class throughout the year. He also attends the class' annual Thanksgiving dinner, held at the school, and brings the kids NYSE sweatshirts, T-shirts and mugs around the holidays. He sends them postcards when he goes on vacation and takes them on a tour of the NYSE and Wall Street.

"He certainly goes well above the call of duty," says Kevin Jackson, the teacher who has worked with Marchman for three years. Jackson says the kids pay attention to what Marchman says. "He's showed them that with drive, commitment and desire that they, too, can make it."

Raised in Brooklyn and a product of New York City public schools, Marchman grew up in circumstances similar to those of many of the kids at P.S. 125.

"I tell them that when you look at me, you should see yourselves," says Marchman. "But for education, I would not be here."

Marchman credits his own family with encouraging him to attend

Allegheny College

TheStreet Recommends

, Meadville, Pa., where he was a magna cum laude graduate in political science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

After attending law school at the

University of Pennsylvania

, he worked in enforcement at the

Securities and Exchange Commission

in Washington, D.C. In 1989, he moved to the NYSE's enforcement division, helping to ensure that NYSE members adhere to market rules and regulations. One of his more high-profile jobs was working to set fines and penalties in the

Drexel Burnham Lambert

case.

Marchman is the NYSE's first African-American vice president. He says kids of color can more easily identify with him as a role model, but he encourages them to also listen to white teachers or mentors who want to help them succeed. "I tell them to grasp the opportunities that a lot of people -- black and white -- gave time, blood, sweat and tears for," he says.

Marchman says it's particularly important to introduce minorities to the business world. "We get them thinking about the Street," whether as a place to work or to invest, he says.

Marchman started working with Junior Achievement seven years ago, after joining the NYSE, but he's always carved out time for volunteer work. In Washington, D.C., he served as president of

Concerned Black Men

, which brought black role models into the public school system.

In Maplewood, N.J., where he lives with his wife and two sons, he keeps busy with his church, school and civic groups. And he's the commissioner of the local Pop Warner football league -- which, he points out, emphasizes academics as well as athletics.

When the P.S. 125 school year ends, Marchman takes the 12-year-olds on a tour of Wall Street, visiting the bull statue on lower Broadway and the NYSE, then detouring to the

National Museum of the American Indian

. It all ends up back in Marchman's office.

A few years ago, after the tour, Marchman asked the kids whether they had anything to say before they left. One of the quieter students spoke up: "Mr. Marchman, you can tell when someone has made an impact by the wrinkles on my forehead. And I have to tell you, you've left several wrinkles on my forehead."

Those wrinkles earn Marchman a spot in our gallery of Unsung Heroes.