It’s a sad day today at my company, IDG. We received news this morning that our founder, Pat McGovern, passed away last night. He was an extremely wealthy man, but you would never know it to look at him. He was worth $5.7 billion, once held meetings with Steve Jobs, and in 2000 founded the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. He was personable, down to earth, and you could tell that he genuinely loved his job.
He was known to us all as “Uncle Pat”, and I had the pleasure of speaking with him several times. He always came to the office to pass out the holiday bonus to each person in the company individually. Yes – every single person. He would have a card (with cash – yes, cash – inside) in his hand, and hand it to each person with a giant smile on his face while thanking you for your hard work.
The running joke at IDG has always been about the question he would ask you, or the comment he would make. If you wore a sparkly necklace, he would comment on how beautiful it was – and knowing this would cause many of the women in the office to wear their flashiest jewelry with hopes they would receive such a compliment. He might ask you what your favorite company value is, or what you do for the holidays. He might even comment on a family picture on your desk. Some of my favorite Uncle Pat stories included the phrases “thousand watt smile” and “picture of youth and vitality”. I was prepared for all of the questions my coworkers prepared me for, but I was not prepared for what he actually asked me.
“You’re very fit. Do you do yoga?”
I stood there, somewhat taken aback for a moment, and then stammered, “Uh, yes – actually I do!” He followed up by saying, “Have you ever been to Bali? They have a wonderful yoga studio there.” It took everything in me not to scoff and say, “Psh, you serious? I can’t even afford Bali underwear.” Instead, I smiled and said, “I’ll have to check that out.” and he gave me his huge grin, shook my hand and wished me a very happy holiday.
That moment reminded me that this guy, as down to earth as he is, is also a billionaire. And he wouldn’t think twice about flying off to Bali to visit a yoga studio. But I can’t even be bitter about that because he offers enormous amounts of his own money to people who are almost strangers, and hands over $350 million dollars to found an institute for brain research at his alma mater. All things I will likely never be able to do myself, but he does frequently and selflessly.
He was a great guy who everyone looked forward to seeing on his annual visits to our office, and it’s going to be weird knowing he won’t be around this Christmas. My thoughts are with his wife, children, family and friends who knew him well and are surely heartbroken.
Rest in peace, Uncle Pat.