Reflections On The Life & Legacy of Mark French
On Friday, Leading Authorities got word that our founder, Mark French, had passed away. Mark founded Leading Authorities in 1990 and grew the company to be a leader in the lecture, video, and event production industries. Mark was also the publisher of CEO Update, the association sector's best resource for C-level executives focused on trends, best practices, and careers. Today, Leading Authorities stands as a testament to Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit, his conviction and drive, his optimism, and his commitment to growth.
In the company's early days, we tracked our business day-by-day on a small white board, propped up on a college dorm fridge that housed lunches and a few beers. At the end of each day, Mark would walk over to this monument of industry, and depending on the volume of ink on the white board, would nod approvingly, reach in for a beer and a few to share, or curse creatively and stomp back to his office. But no matter what we had done that day, we knew tomorrow we would do more. The status quo was never OK, and the future was always bright.
As we grew as a company, our goals expanded to include doing a lot of good in our community and in the world. Mark pushed us to do projects that helped everything from local charities (Bright Beginnings, So Others Might Eat (SOME), Alzheimer’s Association, Boy Scouts, and more) to work in recent years focused on stroke awareness and prevention. There is no doubt that LAI can and will continue both these missions. We will grow, prosper, and do good in the process.
As Mark’s colleagues, we knew we worked with someone who had our backs in a time of need, someone who loved his family above all else, and someone whose love of adventure and travel was infectious. We mourn our loss, but we are committed to celebrate Mark’s life, and embody that entrepreneurial spirit and zest for incredible experiences.
Mark was also incredibly proud of his family. A loving husband to Carol, father to Kathleen, Brian, and Lauren, and grandfather to Kirsten and Preston, Mark often shared stories of their travels and adventures. He loved to see new places, and, of course, ski whenever he could.
After suffering a stroke in 2015, Mark became an advocate for stroke awareness and prevention because he hated the idea of anyone else having to suffer anything similar. In the years following, he produced a documentary aimed at stroke prevention and raised money and supported many organizations in an effort to reduce the risk of stroke in the lives of others.
In one of his last Facebook posts, Mark wrote…
My advice to my friends is to take nothing for granted. It can all change very quickly. Savor the time with family and friends invest your time and emotional energy with those you love. Add to this: be kind to others. In the last few years , I have come to appreciate that what matters most is the blessing of our shared humanity and consciousness … I remain optimistic despite my challenges and I have faith in God. None of us are forever. We must treasure our blessings. I choose to live a life of gratitude. Sorry if this sounds a little philosophical and preachy. But, I think the advice is sound. Finally, be optimistic, or at least as optimistic as you can be. Sometimes that can be hard but there is no benefit to a half-glass full approach to life. And optimism will make you a much happier person.
Please join us as we keep Mark’s family in our thoughts and prayers and work hard to make him proud of us in the years ahead.
- The LAI Team