By: Elaine Shein, AAEA 2016 Past President, AAEA International Committee Chairwoman
UPDATE: In lieu of flowers, the Drake family requests those wishing to make a contribution in Steve’s memory to please consider the CFAES fund at Ohio State University. The fund will help students in the OSU College of Agriculture financially, emotionally and academically.
Information: CFAES Student Support Fund (316943)
The Ohio State University Foundation
P.O. Box 710811
Columbus, Ohio 43271
Or visit www.give.OSU.edu and type in fund number 316943.
If you ever met Steve Drake, you’d remember him. Warm smile, quick wit, full of anecdotes, asked lots of questions, always calm, and really took the time to truly listen — and care — about what you were saying.
Add to all this that Drake was very good at what he did professionally and willing to share relevant experiences and valuable insight to help others, especially when they needed him most. He was passionate about the work he did, most recently with SCD Group, to help associations and professionals achieve their goals for the future.
Drake passed away May 21 from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrous (IPF), only a few short months after being first diagnosed with the lung disease. Funeral arrangements are still being prepared at this time. However, in the last week there has been long lists of condolences and people sharing what he meant to them: as a colleague, consultant, mentor and especially as a friend.
Whether you ever met him or not, know that Drake was a committed and dedicated friend with a long-lasting influence on our organization; he served a critical role in transforming AAEA into the organization we have today, including events we hold, services we provide to members and even our name transformation.
Den Gardner, a longtime friend and colleague, wrote a great tribute you can read at https://www.agrimarketing.com/s/136471?fbclid=IwAR2Lvwl2-llN13tGsc6TYqpmlplwgVkN-wMiCIHpmPoBqpw1Q53dc0k-ddU. Gardner shares how Drake and him, along with Diane Johnson and Kenna Rathai, helped to create the Agricultural Publications Summit in the first place, later called the Ag Media Summit, which involved AAEA and other organizations. The AMS continues to be one of the most important annual events for AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network to continue to be involved in to serve our members.
In 2016, Drake was hired to helped AAEA create a five-year strategic plan. We were one of five national non-profits he helped with strategic plans that year. As he noted in his blog about lessons learned from that year (see http://www.scdgroup.net/2016/12/2016-lessons-learned-from-7-associations.html), three of the associations changed their name as part of this process. We were one of them, finally doing what had been discussed for probably decades as the organization neared its 100th anniversary.
Developing a successful strategic plan is not an easy task, especially with two retreats that involved a roomful of mostly Type A personalities who are all very passionate about every word they write, especially in such things as a mission statement, goals or the new name (and punctuation) of an organization. Drake’s ability to stay calm, ask a lot of questions, listen carefully and effectively summarize what we were trying to say ended up being key to our success. We trusted him because we spoke the same language and he was just as passionate as us about agriculture, ag communications, networking and the need for organizations to understand and serve their members.
This plan he helped us eventually adopt then served as a blueprint for AAEA for the next five years; we are now starting the process of developing the next strategic plan — this time without Drake to guide us. It feels like missing the Northern Star to guide us.
Drake served our organization in other ways during that same time period. AAEA hired him to help us do an executive search to replace Gardner when he retired. Imagine going through 21 proposals, reducing that to 10, then to four, and setting up interviews with key people from AAEA and PIF to make a final decision. From that, ASG and Samantha Kilgore were hired to serve our organization.
Drake also helped from 2016 to 2019 with helping manage and coordinate our Ag Media Summits as we had a new partner in the meeting for 2018, and hosted the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Meeting in 2019 in Minnesota.
He also saw potential in many people, encouraged them, and showed what a true mentor can be for many people — including me — with his encouragement, wisdom and sharing of lessons he learned from different things he did in his career.
As we say a final farewell to our friend and colleague, and express our deepest condolences to Drake’s family, we greatly appreciate all the valuable lessons we learned from him.
Elaine Shein is the associate managing editor for DTN/Progressive Farmer.