Profiles in Leadership

Learning from the past to address problems of the present

Mercy Care Deputy CEO Tad Gary (STN)

As a young boy, living with his grandfather, Tad Gary got a first-hand look at the pain that can come along with having a loved one with a severe mental illness. He also saw the courage and effort it took to overcome it.

Now in his role as the Deputy CEO of Mercy Care, Gary has turned the lessons he learned from that relationship with his grandfather into a passion for addressing and solving big problems in the community.

In a touching leadership profile for the November episode of It Happens at STN Gary talks about growing up, being inspired and who he wants to walk with on the path to helping anybody that needs it.

Really looking at those individuals that are coming to the table and wanting to work together as a team is really what drives me to look to form partnerships to really make a difference in the community.”

– Tad Gary, Mercy Care, Deputy CEO

Mercy Care Deputy CEO Tad Gary talks life lessons and being inspired by his grandfather

This article has been edited from the original interview for content, length and clarity.


You’ve got a bit of a unique origin story. We want to get a sense of where you came from and the things that helped make you who you are. So, where are you from originally? And what was growing up like for you?


I come from a humble background. I was born in Germany and my dad was in the military. I spent the first few years of my life in Germany. Then my family moved to the [United] States, to California where my father was raised. We spent the bulk of my life as a child in California. 

I really came from a very loving family; a family that was very committed to their children. I had some exceptional grandparents that loved me and I loved them immensely. I spent summers with them.

I also come from a family that was plagued by mental illness and substance use and [that] taught me a lot about life and how there are people out there that need guidance and support and commitment from organizations such as Mercy Care and other partners out there that really can do right by individuals that have various different disabilities.


You have an obvious passion for mental health and wellness and belonging. What does that stem from? What drives it?


What I think about each and every day is really my grandfather and the things that I relate to him over the years. Ultimately it stemmed from some of the things that he was battling. Mental illness. He had a psychotic disorder as well as alcoholism. But he’s an individual that was so passionate and loved his family so much. He really gave back to me so much. I still remember that.

But, I remember the challenges that he had. That ultimately is really what drives the work that I’m doing each and every day.


When you think about that relationship with your grandfather and how it molded you, what were some of those times when you noticed he was really struggling with something and how did that impact you?


One of the things that really drove me in that relationship was coming home from school, walking up the driveway, and hearing my grandfather having conversations and arguments thinking there were people in the house. When I walked in, he was the only guy – talking to himself. I was young and kind of embarrassed by what I was coming [home] to.

One of the quintessential events that occurred, my grandfather also had pretty significant agoraphobia, so he struggled leaving the house and had a lot of fears of that. I was a musician, and music was really important in my life. He really wanted to support me in music and thought the world of the work that I was doing. He somehow mustered his energy to leave the house to take me to the music store in downtown Phoenix to buy a clarinet for me. 

Looking back and realizing how much courage he displayed and really the love for me. I would be practicing scales or whatever and want to shut the door. And he was like, “leave the door open. I just want to hear you play. I love when you play.” During those times, he would not be talking to people that aren’t there. He would be focused on what I was doing. That showed the love and care that he had for me that I still drive to recognize today and the work that I do.


Thinking about the work you do at Mercy Care and your passion for social transformation, when it comes to collaborating what do you look for in other organizations or community leaders? What makes you want to work with them?


Collaboration is so important. Especially in this day and age when we’re really seeing the huge need out there in the community. [We need] collaboration to address some of these large system issues. Whether it’s homelessness, food insecurity, or dealing with chronic illnesses such as mental illness or cardiovascular disease or prenatal care. These are all things that are so important to our community. In order to help solve or improve the community in those areas, takes strong collaboration.

I’m looking for partners that have passion, the commitment, and the alignment with the mission that we have at Mercy Care. Really looking at those individuals that are coming to the table and wanting to work together as a team is really what drives me to look to form partnerships to really make a difference in the community.


On the other side of those collaborative relationships, how do you like to be approached when someone wants to partner with you and Mercy Care?


There are so many opportunities for collaboration. I say, informally, “whatever works.” Let’s come together and let’s do something better for the community. Let’s work on opportunities where we can evolve and really help to solve an issue.

Whatever way works for you, that’s the way that we want to be approached. [There is] no single way. Formal, informal, whatever makes sense. We would just love to work with others that share the same mission and passion for helping the community.

I think some really creative things come out of just sitting down and talking as two people wanting to do right by the community. I think that I value it immensely. I want to work alongside folks regardless of their approach and how they want to do things. Because keeping that mission in mind to really help the community, that’s what I’m focused on. So however people want to approach or connect, I’m all for it.

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