It is with great sadness that I share that after a 15-year battle with cancer, former Board Chair Edward Walsh has passed away. Ed was the MGFA Board Chair as the organization transitioned from a federated structure to a unified one—with one budget and one board. His wisdom and business experience helped MGFA to begin to maximize the opportunities and avoid many possible pitfalls as we moved forward. Under his leadership, MGFA launched several new and enhanced programs, including our telephone peer support program, MG Friends, and our Partners in MG Care program—designed to help patients find optimal neurological care. The organization underwent a revision of our branding, including new messaging, a new logo, and a revision of our newsletter, Foundation Focus to a magazine, Focus on MG. A new website was launched, making it easier for people to find accurate and up to date information. All of MGFA’s patient brochures were updated—and our number of support groups grew from about 30 to more than 100. We saw steady growth in fundraising, especially in individual giving—and because of that growth we were able to increase our investment in research. Edward Walsh left his mark on MGFA—we are a better organization because of his leadership, and we are deeply grateful for his decade of service.
I am fortunate to own fond memories of Ed all encapsulated in just one year, six months of working closely together specifically. Our first introduction will remain one of my greatest memories in life…the interview that brought me to MGFA. I will be forever grateful to him for playing a role in this chapter of my life. He asked me direct and poignant questions and he was a true professional. He sat closest to me in the interview at the end of a long table, and I am pretty sure that he stared me down a few times. I am a big fan of good eye contact, and he was a pro. I, also, think that he was trying to figure me out since I came into the room with my bags in tow and shared that I was there “with all of my baggage!” …to which Ed responded, “I think you mean luggage” …to which I responded, “could be both!”. We smiled at each other, and I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy my time with him. By the end of that initial time together, we joked with one another and from there on out, I was a fan of Ed’s. I did not know then how much I would grow to appreciate him. With the passing of time, I learned that his delivery was always direct, threaded with honesty, enthusiasm and just the right amount of sarcasm.
I asked Board Chair and former CEO Nancy Law if she would like to share some thoughts about Ed when we decided that we would like to write a tribute to him…she responded…
“It was an unforgettable day in January 2016 when I picked up a call from Ed Walsh, who began with “I need to ask you something and don’t say no until I finish!” And by the time he did finish, I did not want to say no. I agreed to leave retirement behind to take on the CEO position for MGFA. Ed could be very persuasive. I quickly learned that one of the greatest rewards of the job was going to be getting to work with him. While he had many admirable qualities, perhaps what I remember most was his integrity. Ed always tried to do the right thing. He had a brilliant mind and could very quickly sort through a lot of nonsense to get to the heart of any decision. And as the saying goes, he did not suffer fools gladly. Ed was a mentor, an advisor, a sounding board—and that person who was not afraid to tell you the truth. He was also kind, compassionate and funny. And he loved his family fiercely. Family was always first. It was a privilege to know him—I learned so much, and he became a dear friend in the process. I will miss him more than I can say.”
Nancy’s thoughts will resonate with so many who will read this article. Ed was a trusted source to call and talk through things with…he was so reliable, transparent, truthful in a way that challenged you to look at things from all angles, and with a discriminating eye…and he was so very sharp. I was so fortunate to learn this, as Ed was a mentor to me in my first several months as the new CEO. We would often chat in the morning after his bike ride and I really cherished those conversations greatly.
Sue Klinger, a longstanding volunteer and board member for MGFA, knew Ed the longest and was the one who recruited him to join the organization. I could not imagine writing this tribute without Sue’s thoughts. She shared that as a former longstanding colleague from Citibank, Ed joined the MGFA Board of Directors simply because she had asked him due to his superior financial and management skills. Sue was Ed’s only connection to MG. They (and their families) were very close friends and it is clear that Sue has lost a member of her extended family. Ed eventually served as the Chairman of the Board and gave several years to the organization, leading MGFA through its most recent chapter of hiring the new CEO. Years of support, leadership, and fierce dedication…all given because of a strong friendship.
Ed Walsh was a very good friend to MGFA and he will be missed dearly. I am not sure it is possible to fully thank someone who gave so very much and who asked for nothing in return. Volunteers like Ed usually say that they just hope that they left the organization a better place than how they found it. Ed left MGFA a better organization. He left an indelible mark, not only on MGFA, but on its people, and that is the purest form of volunteerism and friendship. Thank you, Ed, for the gift of you. Farewell to a very good friend indeed.