Minnix bids farewell

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Broadway singers were a part of the Larry Minnix retirement tribute.
Broadway singers were a part of the Larry Minnix retirement tribute.

Among the long-term care leaders who honored Larry MInnix on Tuesday at the retiring CEO's final LeadingAge conference, a few recurring themes occurred.

In a video, LeadingAge luminaries and past board chairmen such as Win Marshall, Audrey Weiner, Mary Alice Ryan and David Gehm weighed in on Minnix's accomplishments, from establishing the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) and Leadership Academy to increasing diversity. But they also talked about Cousin Bubba stories (many were surprised to learn Bubba is real) or what Minnix will do next, with guesses ranging from eating waffles at a diner to writing a book.

Minnix laughed but also greeted LeadingAge members in Boston with both his trademark folksy charm and final thoughts on aging and leadership.

“If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself,” Minnix said. “We all have mentors who help us get on the fence post.”

He praised his parents, colleagues, “courageous boards,” and staff as valuable guides and influences.

“They've been tolerant of me,” Minnix said of his team, while adding extra praise for his successor, Katie Smith Sloan. “She's made me a better leader, and she'll make you one too.”

Family also has been the backbone of Minnix's life, so it was little surprise he cited in his decision to retire. Minnix's wife, Kathleen, “believed in me when I didn't believe in myself,” he said. They've been married 46 years, and are expecting their second grandchild soon.

“She's reminded me that family trumps obsession over work,” he added about Kathleen.

As he wrapped up, Minnix thanked everyone who supported him.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Minnix said, wiping away tears as he received one of the many standing ovations during a 35-minute-plus tribute that included his receiving LeadingAge's Award of Honor..

Then, in true Minnix fashion ... he kept talking.

He added numerous layers of encouraging words for providers and colleagues, challenging them to keep up the good fight for the respect of the profession. He also counseled them to help one another and collaborate for the greater good. 

A final tribute included a soulful rendition of his beloved "(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay" by a troupe of Broadway singers as he and Kathleen sat in easy chairs in front of their extended family on stage. This came soon after Gehm's declaration that LeadingAge's leadership institute was being named after Minnix, who wept at the announcement. 

Fittingly, moments earlier he had delivered a few last words of leadership advice for his soon-to-be-former colleagues

"Serve boldly. Lead confidently. Keep up or you will become obsolete," he emphasized. "You have values - don't compromise them."