Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Role Model to End All Role Models

Role modeling is very important to me ... both being a good role model and also having good role models. Well, one of my role models of the past 20+ years died last week, just two days before his 90th birthday.

His name? Dr. Harry Sands. I met Harry for the first time when I joined the Board of Trustees of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, one of the largest postdoctoral centers for psychiatry in the U.S., where Harry served as executive director. I quickly learned that he had an astonishing record of achievement as an authority on epilepsy, as well as being a noted psychologist and leader in his field.

But what struck me most about Harry initially was not his powerful, upbeat personality and leadership skills, but his small stature and the fact that he was significantly handicapped. Harry walked with the aid of braces and crutches, as he was born without hip sockets and had no movement in his legs. Because he needed leverage to move his body, over the years his crutches applied enormous pressure on his shoulders which, by the time he hit his early 80s, finally gave out, and Harry was confined to a wheelchair.

Why was I so inspired by this man? Well, first of all, when you met Harry, he appeared to be a physically broken man, but in reality, once you got to know him, he was one of the most mentally intact, well-balanced and sharpest individuals I ever met. The key point is that Harry never saw himself as a broken man, but rather the diverse and intellectually stimulating personality that he really was. This was reflected in the way he led organizations (and he rose to the top of nearly every one he participated in) and dealt with people.

When you were with Harry, it was never about Harry, it was always about you. What you were doing. How you were coping. What your plans were. How Harry could help you (he helped my son and my wife at critical moments). You had to force the subject to get Harry to talk about himself. And Harry, who was so well read and in tune with the times and also had a gold-letter resume, had so much to say. He had traveled the world and had seen many of the great destinations. Nothing prevented Harry from going anywhere. He even told me that in his youth, he went hiking with his friends, and they would pick him up and lift him over the tough spots.

No one was better at motivating others to overcome obstacles. I recall once, not too long ago, having dinner with him and telling him about a series of depressing developments that I had experienced, only to have Harry “pick me up.” What was floating in my brain as this remarkable guy was talking to me was that it should have been the reverse; I should have been helping him through a difficult time. At that point Harry had 17 medical issues he was coping with simultaneously. But he was used to it and not thrown by it. Through most of his life into his mid-teens, he was in and out of body jackets and hospitals, having multiple surgeries.

Harry was also a great idea guy. You would have wanted him in every creative session. We had great discussions about politics, business and philosophy. He was the kind of person who would tell you how much he loved you and your friendship. His memory about details of your family was incredible.

Two years before he died he wrote a book about his life. He spoke about the key to longevity: setting goals and accomplishing them. His wife and sons told me that on the day he died he was talking about what he needed to get done and his plans for the future.

In 1921 Eubie Blake wrote a romantic song that became an American standard, “I’m Just Wild About Harry!” It was rewritten in 1948 and became a campaign song for Harry Truman. For the long line of people who knew, worked with or were friends with Harry Sands, I am certain I speak for all of them in believing that if Eubie Blake were alive today and had had the good fortune of knowing Harry Sands, he would no doubt have rewritten and dedicated the song to this very unique man who wore the name proudly.

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Role Model, Harry Sands


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so accurate and have given a wonderful description and tribute to an exceptional human being. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 4:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is purely by chance your blog was brought to my attention. I'm so glad to read your comments regarding my uncle. I'd like to say a big AMEN. I had the feeling that a big sign should have been above his casket - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007 8:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also believe you are quite accurate. Harry was loved by many and he taught me so much. I had the honor and privilege to knowing for over 50 years...he is my uncle. His lessons live on in all who knew him.
George Sands

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Harry for many years. It was interesting to read your description of him as being small in stature. In all the years I knew him I never once saw him that way. While you could always see the challenges his body presented - he moved with aplomb and grace. His eyes never lost their softness, his voice never lacked kindness and his love of people never waivered. His shoulders didn't just give out from the wear and tear of crutches... they also bore the weight of so many other gifted and accomplished people who stood upon them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Makovsky said...

Response to comment posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 4:21:20 PM:

Thanks for your kind words.

Response to comment posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 8:34:01 PM:

Great thought. I agree.

Response to comment posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:13:56 PM:

I appreciate your comments.

Response to comment posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:48:00 PM:

Eloquently stated...and so true. Thanks for your comments.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 1:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto to Mokovsky and to all who have commented on Makovsky's posting. I was fortunate to work with Harry for many years and he will always be with me. I would appreciate knowing the names of those who have posted anonymously to pass it on to his family. Joie de Vivre! Carole

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 1:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Makovsky said...

We really have no way of knowing the names of those posting comments. One indicated Harry was his uncle.

Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

15SCo8 You have a talant! Write more!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ccQhts The best blog you have!

Friday, November 02, 2007 4:03:00 AM  

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