By Scott Meacham
Oklahoma lost a great one recently with the passing of Steve Prescott after a lengthy battle with cancer.
About everyone who has ever picked up the newspaper or been active in Oklahoma City business and social circles knows Steve as the long-time leader of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and a tireless contributor to a number of community organizations and causes. He was the calm voice of reason in the Oklahoman for a clear scientific assessment of everything COVID. In a sense, he was Oklahoma’s Dr. Fauci when we all needed someone we could trust and turn to with all of the noise that surrounded the pandemic.
Steve was the guy who built the new research tower at OMRF. He took the organization to the next level as a nationally and globally prominent research institution. He was also a gourmet chef, a connoisseur of fine wine, and an avid reader. He spoke the truth with a bluntness and forcefulness that was quite refreshing in this age of half-truths and political correctness.
Source of Inspiration
For me, Steve was even more — a personal source of inspiration and solid advice. He served a long term as board chair for i2E and was active on our executive and compensation committees for the entire eight-plus years I have been at i2E. I learned many things from Steve; the following are the most impactful.
Early in my tenure, I was struggling with figuring out where the co-investment for a life sciences deal was going to come from. Steve looked at me and calmly and dispassionately said, “Good deals get funded, bad deals don’t.” He went on to remind me that capital and grant money are remarkably efficient, going to only the worthiest deals while less worthy deals fall by the wayside (as they should). I have applied and repeated Steve’s wisdom numerous times during the ensuing years.
I always had a grand vision for what i2E could be, but I could never quite dream as big as Steve. Whenever I took a new program, plan, or fund concept to him, his input was always, “Yes, and we can make this even more impactful by ….” From Steve I learned that no dream is too big and that the impact of an organization is only limited by the vision of its leadership.
Lastly, Steve showed us all how to keep doing the job while battling unimaginable personal challenges. A diagnosis of cancer and the prospects of cancer treatment would cripple most of us and the organizations we serve. When a doctor says “cancer,” we understandably turn inward to our own battle and personal fears. The organizations we serve go through a similar process, naturally focusing on the inevitable question of “what if…?”
Steve was diagnosed with a recurrence of a prior cancer; however, he never missed a beat. When he chaired an i2E board meeting while wearing his portable chemo pump, I asked him why in the world he would attend our meeting instead of focusing on his health. He had to keep moving forward he said. He refused to let the cancer define his life. That meant not detouring from his day-to-day responsibilities. Just a few days before his death, Steve popped into a Zoom meeting for an i2E committee. He literally did not give in to the disease until his last day.
He understood that the organizations he served need to see him pressing on. This is a lesson I will never forget.
As we walk along our life’s path, there are a handful of people we encounter who have a disproportionate impact on the direction of our lives and how we view the world. Sometimes we are even lucky enough to consider these rare gems as our friends. That was the case with my friend, Steve Prescott.
Steve will be sorely missed by his family, OMRF, his fellow Fortune Club members, and countless others, including me and the rest of i2E. He can never be replaced only cherished for what he left behind.
Yes, Oklahoma lost a great one.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.