The following blog post is the acceptance speech given by Geoffrey Jackson at HealthLink Dental Clinic's Anniversary Cocktail Party Fundraiser on September 26, 2019. Geoff was presented with the 2019 Eugene Jackson Humanitarian Award for his unrelenting commitment to our free dental clinic.
There are two types of people in this world – those who love and identify with Star Wars and those who love and identify with Star Trek.
As to which is the better franchise, let me break it down for you: Star Wars is awesome. Star Wars will always be awesome. Star Trek sucks; Star Trek will always suck.
That said, William Shatner from Star Trek is fantastic. For a while in the 2000’s or early 2010’s he had a show called “$#@$& My Dad Said” – it, too, sucked and got cancelled - but I thought I could draw inspiration from the title and call my speech “$#@$& My Dad DID.” I’m doing so because, although I’m being recognized with the Eugene Jackson Humanitarian Award, it’s really in his honor that I accept it. And my charitable gifting is really just an extension of his.
So as my father’s son, I think I can offer a unique perspective and direct insight into what I saw made him a great humanitarian and philanthropist. These are five guideposts, or milestones, that my dad lived by, and I think they can serve as a blueprint or road map for everyone:
First, Think Big. My Dad started a company called Springhouse Corporation that specialized in medical publishing and information for nurses. SHC also produced quick reference guides, textbooks, and other products and information for a whole host of medical personnel. My dad didn’t start out thinking to do something small for the local community, or do a regional rag with limited readership – he set his sights on the nation and, in the process, became the world’s dominant medical publisher. In the US, his became the leading nursing magazine within 60 months (5 years), beating two deeply-established players. And the company grew from 2 employees to 600. He did this by thinking big.
Second, Overcome Your Obstacles. Gene Jackson started Springhouse mainly because he got laid-off from his medical editing job at Smith, Kline, and French. And he turned an obstacle into an opportunity. During this time, Gene suffered bouts of depression, had a precancerous growth removed from his throat, and really had no money to invest in anything. In fact, at one point, my mom said she told my dad his business had better be a success because they only had $57 left in a joint savings account. (My dad was able to self-finance Nursing Magazine by selling 12 month subscriptions upfront and using a year’s worth of income, piecemeal, to produce one issue at a time, monthly.)
Next, Have Integrity. There’s a lot of stories or anecdotes I could write about here, but one that best comes to mind is something I was told while working at HealthLink. HealthLink’s first treasurer was a volunteer who had previously been my dad’s CFO at Springhouse. Bob Borders told me that, of all the bosses he’d had in the publishing industry, Gene was his favorite. When asked why, Borders said it was because my dad never leaned on him “to cook the books” or “massage the numbers” – to post something from one quarter to the next, or otherwise artificially inflate or make pretty the financial picture if it looked a bit sketchy. My dad was someone who dealt with reality and didn’t let numbers confuse or frustrate him; rather, he let “the chips fall where they may” and had the integrity to deal with them objectively.
Fourth, Have the Fullest Life Possible. As an avid reader, I’d read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl. In it, Frankl recommends giving yourself the fullest life possible so that when obstacles confront you, you can have sources of meaning in your life to help pull you through. Specifically, he writes that anyone can live through any “how” so long as they have a “why”; which means, any suffering can be endured if there’s a reason or goal beyond it that helps legitimatize it and give it purpose. I saw my father give himself the fullest life possible – he ran a global corporation, traveled with world, wrote articles for pleasure for the New York Times on gardening, and got a master’s degree (just for the thrill of it) when he was 58. When being inducted in the Oklahoma State University’s Hall of Fame, he thanked my mom, sister, and me for being many of the reasons and motivators behind his successes and drive. Give yourself the fullest life possible, too – because you only get one life.
Lastly, Give Back*, But Only after You’ve Achieved Something for Yourself First. This last point seems so obvious – to give back, but there’s a catch or an “asterisk” noted with it. My dad wouldn’t have been able to give back had he not sought to achieve something for himself and his family first. Through the capitalist pursuit of a big business venture, he provided income and sustenance to thousands of employees and their families; provided tons of information and life-saving medical advice to countless medical practitioners around the globe; and indirectly helped save and touch the lives of millions of patients and people in need. Just through the business venture alone, he made a contribution to the lives and well-being of the world, outside any foundation gifting, or HealthLink, or other charitable endeavor (which are really just icing on the cake).
As a reader, in addition to Vicktor Frankl, I’ve read a lot of Ayn Rand, too – and while my Dad would probably be the last person to self-identify as a Randian, he surely embodied many of the heroic businessman attributes Rand glorifies and celebrates in her novels and nonfiction. Even HealthLink Dental Clinic itself encapsulates the same private-initiative contribution to the world by being a public solution that uses private practitioners, private dollars and donations, and private problem-solving first, over big government, top-down tax-heavy medicine. There really could be - and should be - a HealthLink in every community and county across the country.
So there you have it: think big, overcome your obstacles, have integrity, have the fullest life possible, and give back, but only after you’ve achieved something for yourself first.
May the force be with you.
HealthLink Dental Clinic was founded in 1999 by Eugene Jackson. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson passed away before the clinic opened its
doors in 2001. We hope that he would be proud of the institution that we have become.
To learn more about HealthLink Dental Clinic, its mission, and who is eligible for free dental care, visit us online at www.healthlinkdental.org.
To make a donation to HealthLink in memory of Eugene Jackson and his legacy, click here.