Reflections on Mike O’Rear

GMI president Mike O’Rear died yesterday.

On Wednesday, I was geared up to post a couple of new, research-related items when Mike had his heart attack at GMI’s offices.  So, those posts will have to wait a while.

This blog isn’t personal –unless something changes, you won’t see my picture or my name here.  But it would be wrong not to mention a few personal reflections about Mike, a wonderful boss, mentor and friend.  If those reflections include a research lesson or two, it will more than justify my posting them here.

  • Mike had a great laugh.  When a visitor entered Mike’s office, it was never more than five minutes before you heard Mike’s warm, genuine laugh.  It showed how well he connected with people, how much he enjoyed them.  Mike found a lot of joy in life to laugh about.
  • Mike was a gifted editor.  When you submitted a report or other document to him, it almost always came back quickly, and improved.  His eye was keen for spelling, grammar, fact-checking, and accuracy in analysis.  Yet his edits were never discouraging.  He always communicated that you were on the right track.  I loved that.
  • Mike left the office on time.  He worked hard and made many sacrifices, as any CEO does.  But Mike encouraged his staff not to sacrifice family time for work and ministry and he led by example, usually eating lunch with family members and keeping regular office hours.  He might have burned the midnight oil after evenings with his kids; maybe he was up early to work from home.  But he honored his family by disciplining himself to go home shortly after five.
  • Mike had a deep sense of God’s calling.  When he talked with me two years ago about career plans and direction, his key question was, “What do you believe that God is calling you to?”  Mike was a trained researcher who didn’t do a lot of hands-on research – because he was called to be a leader and administrator in order to free others to do mission research.
  • Mike loved sharing credit with others.  Not just with those on his staff, but with other ministries.  Perhaps that came from his time working at the U.S. Center for World Mission with Dr. Ralph Winter, who famously said, “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”  Mike was glad when GMI’s work was acknowledged, but what he really enjoyed was successful projects done in partnership with others.
  • Mike would question conventional wisdom.  He wasn’t contrarian – saying B because others said A.  He was an independent thinker, unafraid to lobby for B if he thought it better than A.  Still, his counters were never personal or barbed, and his mind could be changed.  For Mike, ideas, actions and methods stood on their own merits.  I think one reason Mike believed in research was because of its ability to assess the value of both A and B – enabling people and organizations to affirm their course or change it for the better.

I will greatly miss Mike.