February 15, 2016

#RedPantsProject: Remembering My Friend, Mike Yasick

Join us on March 8th, 2016 for Red Pants Day

In late 2012, my business partner, Mickey Shimp and I joined Mike Yasick and his wife, Jennifer, for dinner. Earlier in the day we had several meetings at Shire Pharmaceuticals, and in the hallway we spotted a large cutout figure of Mike. The life-size cutouts of several senior leaders from their GI franchise had been created for a new product launch meeting.

Mickey and I looked at each, laughed and then put the cutout Mike under our arms as we left the building. Instead of a table for 4 that night, it was a table for 5. The waiter moved everything around so the cut out could have an appropriate seat and brought “him” to the table to join us once the Yasicks had been seated. It is one of the best (and funniest) memories I have of my time with Mike.

Mike passed away in March 2013 from the vascular form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare disease affecting less than 200,000 people per year. The life expectancy for those with this genetic mutation is about 50 years old. Mike lost his father, two brothers, and a son to EDS as well.

The EDS diagnosis puts a timeline on ones life, and Mike wanted to attack this disease like it had attacked his family. Mike was and still is an inspiration to many. He treated people as if they were the most important person in the room at the time and I felt how much he cared about me after every conversation. He listened intently, genuinely sharing fears, challenges, and joy. Beth Kephart brilliantly articulates the affect Mike had on family, friends and colleagues in this blog post.

It was a great burden to know his time on earth had an end date, however, Mike was thankful for each day he was given and he offered everyone he met a shot of that optimism. In one of our talks, Mike told me he wanted to be able to say he has a great appreciation for his faith and his family and that he lived fully. I believe he did that. By living the way he did, Mike created interest and awareness about EDS. Mike touched hundreds of people in his life, and the reactions to his passing were some of the most powerful I have seen.

Our relationship started as a business partnership between us here at TSP and Shire Pharmaceuticals, however, in a short time it was evident Mike was going to mean much more to us. When we went to Philadelphia for Mike’s funeral in March 2013, we saw the very cutout that we took to dinner with us just a few months prior and the picture above is of my dear friend, Mike and me.

We wanted to ensure Mike’s memory and legacy lived on and we have taken on the Red Pants Project, in partnership with his former Shire colleagues as well as the Defeat EDS for the Yasick’s (DEFY) Foundation to fund research for Vascular EDS. Red Pants have become a symbol and we will be celebrating our 3rd Annual Red Pants Day on March 8th.

Please help us bring awareness to EDS and support the Yasick family, by wearing Red Pants on March 8th. If you’d like to donate directly to DEFY, click here and include “Red Pants Project” in your message comments.

Tags: #powerofpersonal, culture

Author
Jon DeWitt

Ask anyone about Jon and, more than likely, the first thing they’ll mention is his enthusiasm. However, when you interact with Jon you’ll see, hear, and feel his energy.

Clients and associates love working with him, not just because he’s fun to be around, but also because his optimism and confidence rub right off, making whatever task, challenge, or goal suddenly feel achievable.

Jon may be the first person to laugh or make a joke in a meeting, but he’s also the one to deliver the insights, counter-points, and solutions that no one else would have thought of because he’s smart, creative, and truly cares about our people and our business.

Jon has been with Taylor Strategy Partners for more than 30 years. As Executive Vice President and Partner he is instrumental in the growth of the firm and his responsibilities include new business, client and leadership development. Jon’s career began with 10 years of successful sales, management, and operations responsibilities with Ashland Chemical Corporation. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. 

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