Upon receiving the President’s Award from ACHE’s Tom Dolan, its President and CEO, I was asked how I felt about receiving the honor. I figured the best way to answer that was to unveil the acceptance speech I gave to the hundred or so who attended the Georgia Association of Healthcare Executives' Chairman's Dinner in Atlanta late August.

Here goes: 

Thanks so much. I asked Tom if I was supposed to make a few remarks, and he told me that I had to ... and only two minutes to make them. As you all know, asking me to make a few remarks is like asking Niagara Falls to drop a few drops. But I will try anyway.

Please allow me a moment of personal privilege. I know most of you have not met my wife, Beth, and wonder what kind of woman would be married to a rogue like me. Beth is a retired and recovering corporate attorney, who manages to prop me up when I’m low and pop my bubble when I’m getting too full of myself. She also puts up with a lot of absences due to travel, which is often due to ACHE events. Beth … please stand up and be recognized.

When Tom called me to tell about this award, he didn’t reach me immediately. Instead, he left this voice message: “Larry, this is Tom Dolan. Please call me when you get in. And by the way, don’t worry, it’s good news.”

I think this comment gives you a flavor of the kind of conversations Tom and I have had over the years. When I finally reached Tom and found out about the award, I was left – for one of the few times in my life – speechless and stunned. I really didn’t know what to say. Now, after four months, I find myself in the same situation.

After hanging up with Tom, I found myself asking why I had been selected to receive this honor. I went through several scenarios, but finally settled on the one most obvious. I have now gotten to be considered “old.”

The first indication of the movement toward oldness was when Beth signed me up for AARP. I objected strenuously because it was a symbol of my age that I didn’t recognize. That was followed by the discount on Tuesday at Kroger, and then this year, the 66-cent coffee I got at McDonald’s, the handicapped-enabled rooms at Marriott, and then now, by the receipt of this award from ACHE, which, except for the Young Administrator of the Year, routinely gives awards to senior statesmen. In spite of the inference to old age, I am so pleased to have this recognition. 

I wish to thank Tom Dolan. This is an award from the President of the College, a man I respect and admire for the direction in which he has moved the College and his ability to manage with aplomb the largest professional organization in healthcare. 

I also want to thank the Board of Governors of the College. I know that certain members of the Board enthusiastically supported this honor, and I am grateful for their support.

I wish also to thank the staff of the College. My interactions with them have always been positive, whether it’s in career development, research, membership, Health Administration Press, or whatever. When I give them a good idea, they run with it and follow up with me. And when I give them a bad idea, they manage to dispose of it without irritating me. Tom has set great standards in customer service that the staff has followed consistently.

I also want to thank the membership of ACHE, which includes the people in this room. I figured out the other day that I have interviewed between 3,500 and 4,000 people during my 30-plus years of doing executive search. That’s a lot of people and a lot of stories. One of the things that keeps me going is hearing a great story from a candidate about overcoming some adversity or hearing how a candidate accomplished some extraordinary feat. A lot of you in this room have sat through one or more of my interviews, and I wish to thank you. Much of what I know about healthcare I learned from asking you questions. The one-on-one learning has been extremely enriching to my career.

Finally, let me take one more minute to say this. I have now become a Fellow in three professional societies and am working on my fourth fellowship. But when you see my name followed by my fellowships, the Fellowship in ACHE always goes first. Why?  Because it is the most recognized and most prestigious of all the Fellowships in the non-clinical side of healthcare. It has been almost 10 years since Gail Vergara of Spencer Stuart and I sent a letter to all the executive search firms asking if they could support the statement that a Fellowship in ACHE made a difference when assessing candidates for an assignment. Today, there are 45 executive search firms that have agreed together that having a Fellowship in ACHE makes a difference.

Promise me that each of you sitting here tonight without your Fellowship will make it a point to take the exam the next time it is offered, so that when I am interviewing you for your next job, you will not have to explain to me all the excuses you have for not attaining the gold standard in credentialing of healthcare executives.

Again, I am humbled and appreciative of this award, and I will continue to support the College in all of its endeavors. Thank you very much.