January Meeting Summary: Paul King
“I feel like I was your age yesterday,” said Paul King. As a man on the “back nine” of his career, he has certainly accomplished a lot in his lifetime. For the past 22 years, King has served as the CEO of health care and community organizations, such as St. Francis Hospital, Blue Cross Delaware, and the Delaware Community Foundation. He has served on more than 25 boards of directors, helped to develop employees into CEOs, as well as coached executives of Fortune 500 companies. He currently is a professor at the Warton School of UPenn, teaching both MBA and executive MBA classes at the Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses. During our January meeting, King told us illuminating and intriguing stories from his years of experience to emphasize that through the “power of one,” it is possible to “make the world a better place.”
One one of the many tales that King told us was about his time at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. King and a family physician, Dr. Tom Scott, wanted to create a means of providing health care to those with little money. After some thought, they approached Brother Ronald Giannone of the Ministry of Caring, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the poor in Wilmington. They asked Brother Ronald if they could use one of the organization’s row house properties as a base for the operation. Brother Ronald liked the idea, but he didn’t think a row house would do. Instead, he suggested using a mobile van. “I thought it was crazy, because it had never been done before,” said King. Not only was a project like this unprecedented, but it would cost around $300,000 alone just to buy a van big enough to serve as a mobile clinic. Undeterred by this, Brother Ronald volunteered to raise the money.
Soon after, Brother Ronald invited the heads of a number of major foundations to come to his home for a meal. Wanting to negotiate on more “neutral” grounds, the CEOs suggested that they meet at an upscale restaurant instead. At the dinner, King and Dr. Scott tried to present their idea, but the CEOs relentlessly shot down their arguments, saying that it would not work. When it seemed hopeless, one of the waiters approached Brother Ronald. “Do you remember me?” he asked. The man said that he used to live at the House of Joseph, a men’s shelter in Wilmington that Brother Rodney would help at. “I made it out,” the man said triumphantly. At that moment, one of the CEOs asked King how much money they needed for the project. In the end, King and his colleagues received $1 million for their cause, and they had the power of one–a former shelter resident–to thank.
Over the past 20 years, the St. Clair Medical Van has treated 70,000 people, free of charge. It was the first of its kind in the United States and has been replicated in 8 cities. “You will have ideas, and you will run into obstacles,” said King, “but you should never give up.” At our toughest moments, we should always remember that we have the power and the ability to change the lives of others. “You’re the next generation of leaders,” King told us. “It’s possible to make a big difference if you have the guts.”
To see pictures from our January meeting, visit our Flickr group page here.