Mark G. Garis, 72, of Souderton, an educator in the Souderton Area School District for more than 30 years, died of a brain tumor Friday at his home.

Dr. Garis became principal of Franconia Elementary School in 1967 and later was principal of Lower Salford Elementary School. From 1994 until 1998 he was the district's superintendent. "He was a tremendous educational leader. He was someone who was a mentor to me and someone that I could ask for advice," said Lowell A. Tinner, who succeeded Dr. Garis as superintendent.

After retiring, Dr. Garis was chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Mennonite School. "As a new school in 1998, the challenges were numerous. He guided us to high standards and stability," said Barbara G. Moses, the founding principal.

Dr. Garis also served on the boards of Indian Creek Foundation, the Penn Foundation, Messiah College, and the Brethren in Christ Church.

He and his wife, Nancy Haun Garis, enjoyed travel and hosting international visitors. They spent summers volunteering at an international school in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2002, Dr. Garis served as acting principal at the school at a time of political unrest in Venezuela, his son Jeffrey said.

Dr. Garis grew up on his family's farm in Souderton. He graduated from Messiah Academy and, in 1960, earned a bachelor's degree from Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., where he met his future wife. He later earned a master's degree in education from Temple University and a doctorate in education from Lehigh University.

He began his career teaching third and fourth graders in a one-room school in York County, where one of his students was former Phillies player Greg Gross.

Dr. Garis memorized stats on the backs of baseball cards as a child and was fanatic about the Phillies, his son said. He kept in touch with Gross and with Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, who attended Franconia School when Dr. Garis was principal there.

In addition to his son and his wife of 48 years, Dr. Garis is survived by a daughter, Kristin; three brothers; a sister; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. today at Zion Mennonite Church, 149 E. Cherry Lane, Souderton. Friends may call at 11 a.m.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.