The visionary management and computing pioneer, and Parkinson’s patient since 2000, a long-time adviser to MJFF, had a profound impact on the Foundation.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation is mourning the loss of Andy Grove. The computing pioneer and revered management expert, employee number three and longtime CEO of tech giant Intel Corp., and senior adviser to the Foundation, was 79. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around the time of the Foundation’s launch in 2000 and immediately became engaged with the work of MJFF as a funder, strategic adviser and big thinker.
Andy was famously dissatisfied with the status quo of research and the slow rate of progress, and he was integral in influencing the Foundation’s strategy and culture over the years. His impact is evident in MJFF's commitment to accountability, failure analysis, and willingness to change and adapt. Just as in Silicon Valley, Andy was unafraid to challenge assumptions about biomedical research. He saw opportunity for improved collaboration across industry and academia and vigorous real-time re-assessment of risk-taking.
Today, Foundation leaders are sharing fond remembrances of working with Andy:
Michael J. Fox:
Andy had a profound impact on our Foundation — through his philanthropy, of course, but even more importantly, through his unparalleled strategic thinking and commitment. Andy pushed us to reach new heights. For those of us who had the honor of working with him, we truly learned at the feet of the master: take risks, be intellectually honest, challenge your assumptions and keep pushing that boulder up the hill. We’ll miss him tremendously.
Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO:
He could be challenging and demanding but with the goal of making our work better, more impactful. You never left a conversation with Andy without reworking your project and ideas for the better. Over the years, Andy took great pride in the successes of the Foundation and took a personal interest in many members of our staff. On a personal note, we feel his loss deeply. We will miss the arguments, the humor, the sarcasm and most importantly his friendship. Andy challenged all of us to be better than we thought we could be, to reach for goals we thought were unattainable, to never be satisfied and to always remember that we work for all of those impacted by Parkinson’s disease. Our thoughts are with Andy and his family at this time.
Debi Brooks, Co-Founder:
Andy’s passing is a great loss to me personally, to my colleagues at MJFF and to the world. Andy was a great man, known for his amazing business mind and for his work with Intel. Our worlds collided when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s around the time the MJFF was getting started. Meeting him was one thing (I remember being so intimidated)… but, ultimately, I had the amazing opportunity to work closely with Andy for 15 years. He was a mentor, a conscience, an agitator, a deliberator and a friend. Nothing was accidental with him. Every question was well placed and every suggestion worth consideration. He helped shape how I thought about role of the Foundation. Learning from him was a challenge and a privilege. He demanded boldness and attention.
Andy is a reminder of the best and worst parts of my job: meeting truly great people and then losing them to PD.
David Golub, founding member, Michael J. Fox Foundation Board of Directors
When we started the Foundation’s research efforts, we set the bar high. We required innovative thinking, collaboration, immediate sharing of information and carefully delineated multi-stage planning. But nobody set the bar high like Andy. One of my first encounters with him came after an early meeting of our Board’s Research Committee. I called Andy and asked for candid feedback. “Needlessly self-congratulatory,” Andy remarked in a flat tone. It was at once deflating and motivating. That was Andy’s way.
Andy drove a key early Foundation decision — the decision to engage with industry and seek to catalyze industry investment in our fight to cure Parkinson’s. Prior to the Foundation's groundbreaking work, it was highly unusual for disease charities to engage with industry. Instead, they tended to focus on support for academic research that languished between the lab and the clinic. If there was one decision that has defined the success and contribution of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, it was this one. And in this, Andy was one of our founding fathers.
Jeffrey Kordower, PhD, founding member, MJFF Scientific Advisory Board:
My first meeting with Andy was at an MJFF-sponsored meeting on cellular replacement strategies. We had a roundtable, and he basically tore into us saying that we didn’t know how to solve problems and that were going to be total failures. He didn’t do it in a mean way; he did it in a very direct way. It was the beginning of a friendship and working relationship.
Andy was incredibly irascible, incredibly direct and forced me to focus on problem solving and stay central to the core of what we were studying.
He was an absolute hero. He changed the world. It was an honor and privilege to have worked with him, and I very much enjoyed our many interactions.
Eugene Johnson, PhD, MJFF chief scientific officer (2006 – 2015)
Andy was an impact player who made MJFF better in many ways. He could be a curmudgeon (I think he took pride in that), but he could take it as well as dish it out. We will miss him.
Read more about Andy’s work with our Foundation and as a philanthropist over the years: