Gregory Yank has a story to tell, but when you meet him, he wants to know about you.
That interest in others has led him on three different career paths and the particularly enriching road of volunteerism, he says.
Yank became involved in his local Rotary club nearly 40 years ago and discovered that the organization fulfilled his desire to live a life that matters.
“It’s an avocation and a passion,” he said. “I get a lot of energy and happiness to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
The international service organization brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services. There are 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide in about 35,000 clubs.
Yank, 69, who is a semi-retired business coach, is thrilled to spread their message.
“Our communities and our world are changed because of what we do,” he said. “I’m so proud of what we are doing.”
The eradication of polio is a current Rotary initiative.
“For the second time in history, we can erase a disease (smallpox being the first),” Yank said. “We have been the lead not-for-profit organization lending a hand with the Gates Foundation, the Center of Disease Control, the World Health Organization. When we started in 1985, there were 350,000 polio cases in 125 countries reported annually. We have been helping immunize over 2.5 billion kids from around the world.”
On July 1, Yank began serving as an Rotary International director, representing about 63,000 Rotarians in 13 states. He was elected by the Zone 31 nominating committee this spring.
“I’m honored and excited,” he said.
One of three U.S. directors, he is serving a two-year term on the 17-member board. He will attend national board meetings, try to visit all 26 districts. Last month, he attended the national convention in Atlanta, Ga.
He is a member of the Rotary Club of O’Fallon. The city has members in three clubs, including the Sunrise Club and the St. Clair County Sunset Club.
Yank said he likes both the local and international aspects. They support local youth programs and scholarships, among other causes. He also enjoys the fellowship fostered in the group.
“Rotary changes lives,” he said. “It’s a local service organization with a strong international flavor. I like that we help with economic and community development of our areas.”
Yank was club president from 1992 to 1993 and has been a district governor twice, overseeing 48 clubs and 1,600 members in Southern Illinois.
In addition to his Rotary work, he is active in other community endeavors. He is a commissioner of the Metro East Park and Recreation District, a board member of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, chairperson of the chamber’s Strategic Planning Committee and a member of the Nielsen Healthcare Group Advisory Board in St. Louis.
Through his community work, Yank said he discovered he had an ability to motivate audiences and individuals.
“I enjoy public speaking,” he said.
Winner of the Service About Self Award in 2014, he has traveled to Korea, Malawi, Ecuador, India and Belize on Rotary projects.
His wife, Catherine Taylor Yank, is a past governor. Both are members of the Arch Klumph Society, which is the highest tiers of donors, and the Paul Harris and Bequest Societies (Level 3).
She owns Jim Taylor Inc., a 107-year-old family roofing contracting company in Belleville.
Yank has three grown children. His son, Damien Yank, lives in Troy and has three children. His son Gerrit, of O’Fallon, is in the family business. (He owns a residential roofing company, Taylor Roofing Solutions.) His daughter Julia Yank lives in St. Louis.
Through his own company, GY Consulting & Facilitation Services, Yank mentors and works with business owners. He specializes in business coaching, strategy, facilitation, strategic governance and board development and education.
Previously, for 11 years, Yank owned a business coaching and peer advisory board franchise called The Alternative Board TAB.
“I’m near the end of my working life, but I love helping clients,” he said. “I keep my fingers in doing that. In addition to business coaching, I do a lot of consulting.”
Prior to that, he spent 25 years in health care executive management, twice as a CEO of a hospital and as president and CEO of a Catholic health system.
At 23, after nine years studying to become a Catholic priest, he left Mundelein Seminary. He debated joining the Peace Corps but returned to graduate school instead.
“I’ve been back here since 1989. I moved a lot working in health care,” he said.
In 1978, he took a job in Kirkwood, Mo., and that’s when he joined the local Rotary. He’s also been a member of the Muskegon, Mich., club.
Since 2011, he has lived in a north portion of O’Fallon that has a Lebanon address.
“We love O’Fallon,” he said. “It has a big small-town feel. It has great schools and parks. We’ve had insightful leadership.”
In his spare time, he and his wife, both avid sports fans, cheer on their teams. Milwaukee-born, he has been a Green Bay Packers fan since 1957 and owns one share of the team.
He became a zealous St. Louis Cardinals fan upon first moving to the area almost 40 years ago and followed the team after he moved away. Now that he is back, he and his wife attend as many games as they can.
But the pair’s favorite club is still Rotary, and they are devoted to its mission.
“We can do great things — all of us together — our time, energy and money,” Yank said.
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “Be a Servant Leader and follow the Rotary 4 Way Test in my personal and professional life: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “My parents Frank and Carole Yank, who imbued in me the value of family, staying connected, hard work and honesty.”
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: “Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the U.S. He served at one of the most difficult times in our history.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “James Patterson, ‘Crossfire.’”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “Catherine and I enjoy baseball and are avid St. Louis Cardinals fans. We enjoy traveling on Viking River Cruises, and I play golf.”
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: “It is mostly messy, but I know where everything is, and sometimes I go on a cleaning jag.”
Q: What did you want to do career-wise when you were growing up?
A: “I wanted to be a Catholic priest and spent nine years in the seminary in the Chicago Archdiocese. I think I would have been a bishop by now if I had gone that direction.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “My honesty, integrity and work ethic. I am very organized and am a planner.”
Q: What irritates you most?
A: “Not doing what someone says they will do and procrastination.”
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “A mix of smooth jazz, country and light rock.”
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: “As a business coach (part-time), I enjoy the long-standing relationship I have had with my client customers and helping them in any way I can to grow their business and help them achieve their personal visions.”
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: “Giving money away to enable the less fortunate and Third World countries to prosper, like the Gates Foundation. I admire them greatly.”
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: Jimmy Stewart.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: “My life partner Catherine and at least two golf clubs and of course several golf balls.”