by Debra Gelbart
August 20, 2017

Crystal Clear Commitment

He’s the CEO of a 134-year-old, Midwest-based manufacturing company that generates approximately $4 billion in sales, employs 22,000 people and maintains production operations in 19 countries. He sits on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers and has met presidents, governors, senators and leaders of some of the world’s largest and most high-profile organizations. Yet Karl Glassman views the work of the world’s leading pancreatic cancer researcher, Daniel Von Hoff, M.D., the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix and the Seena Magowitz Foundation as unmatched in “influencing humanity and truly changing people’s lives.”

Glassman is one of the nation’s foremost supporters of pancreatic cancer research.

He has headed Leggett & Platt, a diversified manufacturer of primarily steel-based materials for bedding, furniture and automotive products, since Jan. 1, 2016. He has worked for the company based in Carthage, Missouri for 35 years.

Beginning of Involvement Fighting Pancreatic Cancer

A bedding industry executive urged him to attend a Seena Magowitz Foundation fundraising event in Phoenix in 2009. Glassman was so moved by the stories from pancreatic cancer survivors there and by the progress made in pancreatic cancer research that, although no one in his family has battled it, he became one of the most devoted advocates to the cause of fighting pancreatic cancer. Before he got involved with the Foundation, he had only known one person with the disease—a colleague who died from it just six months after diagnosis.

Glassman isn’t unfamiliar with other kinds of cancer, however. His mother passed away from breast cancer at just 54. On occasion, he is asked why he’s dedicated to fighting pancreatic instead of breast cancer. “Breast cancer is prominent as a cause and already receives so much money for research and treatment,” he said. “But pancreatic cancer is still somewhat misunderstood and doesn’t receive anywhere as much public attention.” He said he’s confident that the research related to pancreatic ultimately will apply to other cancers.

In 2016, he pointed out, pancreatic cancer passed breast cancer as the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. “That’s staggering,” Glassman said, “and underscores why we need to fight pancreatic cancer.”

Glassman has attended Seena Magowitz Foundation fundraisers every year since 2009, and in 2012 became the honorary chair of the Annual Seena Magowitz Golf Classic. “It was supposed to be a one-time appointment,” Glassman said, “but I ended up serving for two years.” Roger Magowitz, founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation, had urged Glassman to take a tour of TGen. “I saw and felt the dedication of Dr. Von Hoff and others at TGen to expanding personalized medicine,” he said. Glassman was so impressed that he has served on TGen’s national advisory board for pancreatic cancer for the past five years.

A Generous, Tireless Advocate

Over the years, Glassman and his company have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Seena Magowitz Foundation. That’s in part, he said, because of his experience at TGen. “I can’t imagine someone spending time there and not getting involved,” said Glassman, who with his wife Cathi has two grown sons—Ian and Nathan—and a grown daughter, Raychel, along with eight grandchildren and a ninth on the way.

Through Glassman’s involvement with TGen and the Seena Magowitz Foundation, he has realized how generous the bedding industry is. Several mattress companies, because of Roger Magowitz’s leadership role in the industry as the former owner of a company that became part of Mattress Firm, help sponsor Foundation fundraisers and donate to the Foundation on a regular basis. “There aren’t a lot of industries where competitors come together over a common cause,” Glassman said.

Glassman feels that he gets a lot from giving to the cause of fighting pancreatic cancer. “You can change the world one person at a time through this effort,” he said. “We have a responsibility to try to leave the world better than it was before we got here. In my mind, TGen and Dr. Von Hoff are the opportunity to do that and impact future generations with regard to cancer and personalized medicine. There’s no better way to leave a positive, lasting impact on the world than through TGen.”

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