Thursday, July 15, 2010

Remembering Drake Turrentine

Dear Special Olympics Family,

It is with great sadness that I write to share the news that our friend, colleague, and leader, Drake Turrentine, died yesterday morning, July 14, 2010. He was a wonderful human being and a blessing to our movement. Our hearts are now with his wife Joann, his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren. He will be missed terribly.

Drake Turrentine has been part of the Special Olympics movement for over 18 years beginning as outside counsel to the 1995 Special Olympics World Games Organizing Committee. Before joining our team, Drake was a partner in the Connecticut law firm of Wiggin and Dana. He was a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School and a veteran of four years of service in the United States Air Force. In service to the 1995 Organizing Committee, Drake managed all the contracts, licensing, and organizational work associated with an event on the scale of a world games, pro bono. More importantly, he came to enjoy the mission, he marched in the Opening Ceremony at Yale Bowl, and he fell in love with Special Olympics. What good fortune for all of us!

In 1997, Drake and Joann moved from Connecticut to Washington and he assumed the new position of Special Olympics’ in-house General Counsel. From that vantage, he served the movement in countless ways always acting as the backbone of our fiduciary responsibilities but at the same time, helping chart the expansion of our mission around the world. The fruits of his dedication can be seen everywhere in Special Olympics. He helped shape our global and regional structure; led our World and Regional games agreements, championed the general rules and it’s revisions, created multiple models of revenue sharing with our accredited programs, oversaw streamlined accreditation systems, demanded excellence in risk management, pushed for better and better corporate partnerships, and served as Secretary to the Board of Directors.

Above all, Drake was an unfailing defender of the mission of Special Olympics—of fidelity to it, of promoting an understanding of it, of respect for its unchanging power. He saw his role not so much as a lawyer but as a champion of the movement who used the law as a tool to make a difference for our athletes, families, and communities. He worked with my mother to insure that our governing documents were clear on the centrality of the mission and he felt a deep responsibility to her to protect her vision. Over and over again, he told everyone, “Special Olympics is the best legal job in the world and I have it!” And indeed, he performed it unfailingly with dedication, smarts, and enthusiasm.

Beyond all his achievements, Drake was a man whose integrity and values made us all proud to count him as our leader. He was totally selfless, deeply trustworthy, unfailingly kind and humble. He never asked for anything for himself. He never complained. He never wanted anything other than to help our movement. How lucky we are that we were able to enjoy the work and collegiality of such a man.

Drake’s name may not be well known around the world but the sadness of this day does nothing to dim the reality that he touched the lives of millions of people for the better. He helped Special Olympics become one of the most respected sports movements in the world. He made us tough and determined. He made a difference. We have no higher praise.

Drake’s wife Joann has asked that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made in Drake’s honor and memory to Special Olympics. While that is no surprise, it is yet another humbling example of the man we knew and loved.

I hope you will join me in keeping Drake and his family in your prayers.


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