Last week, I lost a mentor, friend and father figure. The direct marketing industry lost one of its true visionaries, and our country lost someone who completely embodied the “American Dream.” Gary Taylor, the founder and chairman of InfoCision, died Saturday at age 59.
I first met Gary in 1993. Little did I know then that the unassuming man from Akron, Ohio, sitting across from me would become a mentor, inspiration and role model over the next two decades. Gary and I seemed to click from the start — maybe it was our mutual love for sports or the game of golf, which we played together more times than I can recall.
But probably more so, it was the result of an ambitious young man realizing fate had brought him a teacher. Beyond my own father, no one taught me more about business, work ethic and integrity than Gary Taylor.
Gary received his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Akron in 1975. He then worked at the university as a graduate assistant while earning his MBA, which he received in 1977.
As the son of a cab driver and member of a working-class, Northeast Ohio family, you could stop the story here and call Gary’s life a success. Not a chance — Gary went on to entrepreneurial and philanthropic greatness that nobody could have imagined.
He started InfoCision in 1982 from a single rotary phone in his house. Thirty years later, he employed over 4,000 and raised more money for nonprofit organizations than any other teleservice firm in America.
During this time, InfoCision’s customer base grew to include numerous Fortune 500 companies. However, Gary’s real passion was fundraising, and his client list read like a who’s who in nonprofit and political circles: Rex Humbard, Jerry Falwell, Jay Sekulow, Ralph Reed and Dave Bossie, to name a few.
In Gary, they had a partner they could trust to get the job done and tackle any problem head-on. And perhaps more important, they all considered him a friend.
Under Gary’s leadership, InfoCision became the envy of the teleservices industry — and the awards poured in. There are simply too many to list. Above all, he never forgot his roots and where he came from. Gary and his wife, Karen, donated millions of dollars to charity, with an emphasis in the Akron area.
The Taylor Institute of Direct Marketing at the University of Akron (where I serve as an advisory board member) opened its doors in 2004. The Taylor Institute has the largest curriculum, facility and staff dedicated to teaching direct marketing at the college level, and it offers the only fully accredited four-year degree program in our industry.
As if this were not enough, the fall of 2009 saw the opening of the 30,000-seat InfoCision Stadium on the UA campus — all made possible by Gary and Karen Taylor.
Gary made me part of his family. He trusted me and gave me the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with InfoCision every step of the way, never asking for anything in return. He went out of his way to help me, to teach me and to mentor me. It’s a debt that I could never begin to repay.
In October 2012, Gary’s son, Craig, became the chief executive officer of InfoCision. It has been my pleasure to know Craig since he was a young man; he truly is a “chip off the old block.” In an almost Shakespearean way, I now find myself hoping to inspire Craig the same way his father inspired me. These circumstances cement my beliefs in faith, destiny and karma.
Gary, there will never be another one like you. You touched so many lives and meant so much to a family, a staff, a town, an industry and me. May you rest in peace.
President and chief executive officer