Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” This quote reflects the way that Ken Begasse, Sr. lived his life. He was the type of person who gave generously of himself to help develop others. In addition to a long and successful career in medical advertising, he affected the lives of many individuals, helping them to grow and advance. His legacy will be of someone who devoted a good part of his career giving back to the industry and helping others with theirs.
Ken’s career in healthcare spanned 37 years before his untimely death in 2010 at age 60. He started his career in respiratory therapy when he established and led the Respiratory Therapy Department and Pulmonary Lab at Greenwich Hospital. In 1978, Ken transitioned from clinician to sales of hospital monitoring equipment. A chance encounter with a colleague introduced him to medical advertising and, once he joined the small agency Kimmich & Company in Norwalk, CT as an account executive, he never looked back. He knew that advertising was the path he wanted to pursue. After more than a decade at Kimmich, Ken joined Sudler & Hennessey and then went on to assume several other positions of increasing responsibility including: Director of Client Services, Lowe McAdams; COO of Nelson Communications; CMO of CommonHealth; President of MBS/VOX; and CEO of Concentric Pharma Advertising, an agency co-founded by his son.
Ken’s professional accomplishments are significant, but perhaps his greatest legacy and contribution to our industry was the many people whose potential he helped to develop. Regardless of whether an individual’s career interest was in account work, creative efforts, or even association management, Ken always pitched in with assistance and advice for how to grow and move ahead. Many of those that he touched are industry leaders today, and he would be quick to agree that the people he mentored were his proudest accomplishment.
Ken conducted himself, personally and professionally, by example and the following principles defined him:
Engage. Ken believed that without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. According to those that worked with him over the years, his door was always open. He practiced “management by walking around.” He could sense when someone was having difficulties, and always made the effort to see if he could help.
Educate. Ken knew that education is an essential building block in helping others become the best they can be, and that it is built on a foundation of helping, guiding and teaching.
Encourage. Ken created an environment in which others could be productive and excel. Ken Jr. says: “He helped us all to ‘dream’ in our strategy, to push the boundaries of what could be done, not to settle on the obvious or the easy to sell strategy. He’d rather lose a pitch with the right strategy than win a pitch with a strategy that couldn’t work.”
Energize. Ken energized any group that he was a part of, including the HMC, an organization which he was devoted to. He gave unstintingly of his time to make the association a source for supporting the industry and providing a resource for members for education and development.
Elevate. Raising up other people was a selfless goal that Ken saw as a necessity for every effective mentor. For him, it was not about getting the credit, it was about helping the organization and every person in it be the best they can be.
Ken did great work for clients at all of the agencies where he worked, and set Concentric up to become a leading agency in the industry. His contributions to the success of the businesses hw worked with were substantial, from daily operations to ideas for markeing and communications programs. But, most importantly, his lasting impact and greatest gifts, are the many leaders in today’s industry who he mentored. He is remembered by them for his support and assistance with their careers and lives.