Eulogies

April 2, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-04-02-2006, Volume 30, Issue 4

Hubert J.P. Schoemaker and William T. McCormick. Perhaps we could have not a special day, but just a moment to remember what we owe and who we we owe it to.

One of these mornings,You're gonna rise up singing,Then you'll spread your wings,And you'll take to the sky.

Douglas McCormick

I have two versions of the Gershwins' "Summertime" on my MP3 player: one by Janis Joplin and another by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. No matter which version pops up in the shuffle, my heart leaps whenever I hear that promise of freedom and joy.

Hubert J.P. Schoemaker

On Feb. 22, more than 600 people filled Philadelphia's Crystal Tea Room for the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Association's annual dinner. It was a power crowd in networking nirvana, and they chatted right through the opening remarks by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Dennis M. "Mickey" Flynn, Pennsylvania Bio's new president.

When Anne Schoemaker took the podium, however, the throng fell silent. Completely silent.

She was there to present the first Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Achievement Award, named late last year in honor of her husband, the founder and chairman of Centocor and then Neuronyx, who had died on New Years' Day after a twelve-year struggle with brain cancer. (Pharm. Technol., Feb. 2006.)

Mrs. Schoemaker opened by congratulating the recipient, Cephalon CEO Frank Baldino, in words Dr. Schoemaker might have used, and then went on in the silence to talk about "Hubert's incredible enthusiasm and charisma."

After the diagnosis, she said, he kept on working and thinking. When he could no longer drive, "he motored into Neuronyx in his blue titanium wheelchair...because doing so allowed him to continue to add value to this community." When he could no longer read, he asked questions, listened, and thought, "his work now conducted in a private space." And when he could no longer leave his bed, the people he had nurtured and mentored came to him, "because making his contribution to the company and this community never ceased to be important to him."

"This is his great legacy," his widow said. "It is one of people first, and of innovation. It is of vision, courage and determination, and always, always of optimism. Building companies. Giving back. Cooperating to find synergies that result in new opportunity. Bringing people and organizations together to accomplish broader goals. Supporting and celebrating the achievements of colleagues and friends. These are the values he lived every day and the ones that have and will continue to inspire the rest of us."

Those of us who were working at the dawn of biotechnology remember what a force Hubert was. But no one facing the challenges Hubert faced could have done what he did by themselves. The ranks of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are filled with people Hubert attracted, motivated, and taught. He seemed to command extraordinary loyalty and affection from this cadre of driven men and women, long after they had moved on to face their individual challenges. The great legacy of Hubert Schoemaker, of anybody, is the people whose lives he touched.

William T. McCormick

Four days after the Pennsylvania Bio meeting, William T. McCormick died in a nursing home in Livingston, NJ. We buried him at the beginning of March. He lived his life modestly, and only those few of us who knew him well realized the extraordinary combination of qualities wrapped up in that one quiet package. His friends described him as "sweet" and "brilliant," words that don't commonly go together.

He worked for much of his career as a marketing writer for a magazine publisher. He and I started talking about magazine audiences when I was twelve. He showed me young the voodoo of mixing audience research and intuition to understand readers, to feel what they feel and see what they want to understand. He had an unusual gift: he could move freely from numbers to words and from words to pictures, picking whichever idiom fit the message best.

He was, as I have said, a quiet man—until some constellation of ideas fired his imagination. Then he would lean forward into a fighter's stance (he had boxed in the Army) and his hands would start moving—not bunched in fists, but open, as though he wanted to pass ideas to you physically, or pull your ideas to him.

When I had just graduated from college, I asked my father what he had wanted to be when he was my age. "A philosopher-king," he said, smiling, "but there's not much call for them."

So perhaps I could suggest not a Fathers' Day or a Mothers' Day, but just a moment for mentors, an instant in which any of us whose lives have been expanded by others' lives can—just for a minute, aloud or in the muffled vaults of our own minds—remember what we owe and who we owe it to, and say, "Thank you."

He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again. Hamlet, Act I, Scene ii.

Douglas McCormick is editor in chief of Pharmaceutical Technology, dmccormick@advanstar.com

Related Content:

From the Editor | Viewpoints