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VOL. 131 | NO. 206 | Friday, October 14, 2016

Shorb's Next Steps

Urban Child Institute job ‘ideal opportunity at ideal time’

By Don Wade

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Jill Crocker, board chair of The Urban Child Institute, remembers the conversation well. She and interim executive director Meri Armour were discussing the future and the person they would need to find to lead the nonprofit forward.

Retiring Methodist Healthcare CEO Gary Shorb, pictured here with The Urban Child Institute’s board chair, Jill Crocker, begins his new duties as TUCI executive director on Feb. 1. 

(Daily News/Kristen Jones)

The conversation would have been serious under any circumstances. But in this case, it was following a time of controversy over the compensation paid to previous CEO and president Eugene Cashman (more than $600,000 in 2013, for example), and after a period when The Urban Child Institute’s grants to local nonprofits had been on the decline.

“We were talking and said, ‘You know, the perfect candidate is someone that’s involved in the community, impeccable integrity, really knows everyone in the community and can be a leader,’” Crocker said. “And Meri says, ‘It sounds like Gary Shorb.’ And I said, ‘Gary Shorb would be perfect. It’s a shame he’s retiring.’”

And Shorb is retiring. At the end of year, he steps down as CEO of Methodist Healthcare. But having been approved by The Urban Child Institute’s board, he will begin his role as executive director on Feb. 1. His compensation will be $165,000, with no additional benefits.

“My plan was to spend more time with grandkids, more time with the wife doing a little more travel, and see what develops over maybe four to six months,” Shorb said. “I’d had some contacts about consulting, a little mentoring work, but then Meri and Jill talked to me about this. It was the ideal opportunity at the ideal time. I’m really honored to be in the position.”

Shorb has served as CEO of Methodist Healthcare since 2001 and joined Methodist in 1990 as executive vice president. He served as president of the Regional Medical Center in Memphis for four years.

His community resume includes serving on the boards of Memphis Tomorrow, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Healthy Shelby, People First, the Committee for Economic Development, Governor Haslam’s Scientific Advisory Council, the University of Memphis Board of Visitors and the Tennessee Business Roundtable. He is past chairman of the Overton Park Conservancy, chair of Memphis Fast Forward and serves on the board of Memphis-based publicly traded company MAA, formerly called Mid-America Apartment Communities.

He was also on The Urban Child Institute (TUCI) board years ago “when we first organized this thing,” as he put it.

“Somebody told me (hiring Shorb) was the smartest thing I ever did. I think it’s in the top three,” Crocker said, noting that marrying her husband and having children were the other two.

She adds, of course, that the decision was not hers alone. The board voted on hiring Shorb. Given that TUCI has had a rough patch, Shorb would seem to give the organization a good chance at a quick transition.

Through its charter, TUCI was formed to specifically support three entities: Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the University of Memphis, for the purpose of promoting health, particularly of area children.

“I’ve got a very strong relationship with David Rudd (president of the U of M), Steve Schwab (chancellor of University of Tennessee Health Science Center),” Shorb said. “Of course, I’ve worked with Meri (CEO at Le Bonheur). I know all the board members. So a lot of what would have been an executive director’s learning curve, a six-month to a year period, is not going to be necessary. And hopefully with Jill’s help, and the staff, I can really hit the ground running.”

Crocker said TUCI also has cut full-time staff from nine positions to six, including Shorb.

Going forward, TUCI likely will shift some of its emphasis. TUCI’s CANDLE study – Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood – in collaboration with the UT Department of Preventive Medicine has been well-received, Shorb and Crocker agreed.

In fact, Shorb called it “strong research,” but also asked: “How much more do we need to know and how much should we spend on research vs. getting out there and working with other organizations or exploring other interventions we may want to fund? That’s an open question yet.”

ACES – Acute Childhood Experiences – is an area of interest, Shorb said, and he also believes more work needs to be done to provide childhood immunizations.

Once Crocker assumed the role of board chair, it wasn’t long before TUCI was making good on a pledge to give $8 million in resources to area nonprofits, or about 5 percent of the budget.

Shorb says before accepting the position he wanted to know the board’s thoughts on future direction. He liked what he heard.

“Opportunity one, to deploy the resources. And secondly, and one of the things the board has made clear, we want to collaborate more and leverage this money,” said Shorb. “We want to try and make an impact on the community.”

Crocker says Shorb gives TUCI an instant shot of integrity.

“One of the things we’ve had to do is earn back the respect of our community and the other not-for-profits,” she said. “We do not want to be an island. We want to serve in this community together.”

Shorb is, in one sense, now the face of the franchise. He says will be active and visible.

“A lot of it is incremental, one step at a time, rebuild the credibility, the trust, lots of communication, which the board has already started,” Shorb said. “Urban Child Institute is a recognizable brand. And while we’ve had a little bit of a misstep here, re-establishing that positive image is not going to be real difficult.”

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