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Tracy Austin: A Legacy of Love

Ten years ago I was surveying Toastmaster clubs here in Columbus, Ohio so I would feel confident in recommending the program to clients around the country.
 
I still remember entering a room in Franklin University, where they hold the Mid-Day Toastmasters every Thursday. I recall that so well because I met someone who greeted me with such presence that he immediately made me feel welcomed and at ease.
 
He’s one of those people you’ve met, who seem to glow with positive energy. He has that friendly smile and bright eyes.
 
That was the day I met my friend Tracy Austin who, without exaggeration, is the most positive person I’ve ever met. I knew his name was “Tracy” because he was wearing an embossed name tag from Toastmasters.  
 
But, curiously, Tracy was also wearing a paper name tag with a positive adjective like “excited,” though I don’t remember the exact word. I soon learned that Tracy had worn such name tags every day for years, reflecting his “word of the day.” Tracy used these tags to reflect his attitude, support others or simply engage people in conversation.
 
Tracy is like that. He uses his influence to engage and support everyone he meets, positively changing the tone and mood in the environment around him.
 
We hit it off right away because I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Tracy. We share a passion for leadership, communication and personal development, the very topics I share here each week.
 
We’ve had deeper discussions about these concepts and Tracy has put them into practice in building a legacy all around him. Until his retirement last year, Tracy was a leadership and organization development leader at Franklin University.
 
As a coach and mentor in student services, Tracy directly changed the lives of thousands of students. I know this because I’ve read their comments on his Facebook page in recent months.
 
Tracy has created a legacy of life.
 
At Toastmasters, Tracy did the same. A great speaker himself, Tracy encouraged, challenged and mentored members to grow as speakers and leaders. He has contributed to the growth and development of hundreds of Toastmasters members over the years. Again, I know this because I witnessed it and I’ve read their comments on his Facebook page over the past few months.
 
Tracy has built a legacy of personal development.
 
Tracy also challenges himself daily to grow as a person, leader and communicator. He shows up and contributes to his community and connects people together. He has played on the same softball team for decades building deep friendships and camaraderie. I know this because I’ve read their comments on his Facebook page over the past few months.
 
Tracy has built a community of trust.
 
Shortly after retiring from Franklin University, Tracy began a new phase of his life in a leadership development job with a local corporation.
 
Then early one morning last Fall, Tracy posted to Facebook that he been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (the disease that took my mother years ago).
 
When Tracy shared his diagnosis, he and his wife and soul mate Karen committed to being open and transparent through their journey. On Facebook, they’ve intimately shared their pain, their joy, their fears and their love.
 
They challenged thousands of us to live our lives with awareness, gratitude and love. A community of support has surrounded them, with continuous prayers, positive energy, and daily visits and support. People have worn name tags in support of Tracy. #TeamTracy
 
As he went through some 15 rounds of wrenching chemo, Tracy maintained his positive attitude, thanking his doctors and nurses for their support and supporting other patients. 
 
Tracy recently entered hospice. As he continues on, Tracy should feel the light of the thousands of lives he has brightened, inspired and changed forever.

As leaders, we all at some point consider what our legacies might be.
 
Tracy Austin is a legacy of love.