Dr. Christopher J. Elias, PATH’s president and CEO until February 1, is admired for many of his traits and abilities. At a gathering last week to wish Chris well as he heads to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to become president of their Global Development Program, PATH staff members and leaders praised the qualities that make it so hard to see him go, even if it is just ten blocks up the hill from our Seattle headquarters.
His authenticity. His humility. His willingness to listen and to give advice. His facility with words and deep expertise in PATH’s broad portfolio of projects. His stamina, nimble mind, and quick wit.
His ability to fall asleep almost anywhere.
“It’s just unbelievable,” teased Dr. Ayo Ajayi, vice president for field programs and Chris’ frequent traveling companion to offices and projects worldwide. “I have such trouble falling asleep and I’d look over and he’d be gone. No wonder he has so much energy.”
Thanks for the excellent adventure
Chris’ impact on PATH and global health during his 11-year tenure is profound and long lasting. To name just three examples, the Meningitis Vaccine Project developed and delivered a vaccine with potential to wipe out epidemic meningitis A in sub-Saharan Africa. First results from a large-scale phase 3 clinical trial showed that a vaccine candidate from our Malaria Vaccine Initiative’s portfolio provided young African children with significant protection against clinical and severe malaria. And our organization’s budget increased more than sixfold while our staff went from 300 to 1,100—roughly half working in the countries we serve.
Recognizing the “stupendous” achievements at PATH in the last decade, board member Dean Allen thanked Chris “for the opportunity I’ve had to learn from you and from PATH.”
“I think a testimony to your work is the folks that are here,” he said, “and how well PATH is positioned to grow and continue to do great work.”
Enough memories to fill a book
PATH’s newest vice president—Sarah Temple, who began leading our External Relations group on January 1—admitted she’d peeked inside a book of memories assembled by staff members to get some insight into Chris’ leadership of PATH.
“Not only is it a testament to your vision and your leadership,” she told him, “but to the incredible affection, regard, esteem, and great, good feeling that all of the staff have for you, and how they hold you very close to them.”
It’s been a great ride, Chris. We’ll miss you.