Feature Stories

Employees’ Dedication to Supporting Veterans and Active-Service Personnel Leads to Special Recognition for Astellas

Apr 3, 2018

At a March 23, 2018 awards ceremony in Springfield, Ill., the Illinois Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) recognized Astellas with its highest honor – the Pro Patria Award – as the state’s leading large employer over the past year. Astellas received the award for demonstrating “exceptional support for national defense by adopting policies that make it easier for employees to participate in the National Guard and Reserve.”  

Some of the benefits contributing to this recognition include Astellas’ 10 days paid military leave per year to support active service employees; employee-volunteer support for the annual adaptive-sports Warrior Games; the 11,000 square foot “Heroes Garden” at the entrance of the corporate headquarters in Northbrook, Ill.; and the donation by Astellas employees of nearly 2.2 million airline miles during a 2017 Veterans Day donation drive.

Additionally, the Astellas Brighter Tomorrows charitable giving program awards grants to nonprofit veterans’ organizations that support patient and caregiver communities; that increase disease and resource awareness; or that raise peer networking opportunities in one of Astellas’ therapeutic areas such as prostate cancer, overactive bladder or transplantation/immunology.

The most noteworthy factor contributing to this award is the dedication and ongoing engagement of the approximately 100 members of the Military Employee Resource Group (MERG). We spoke to three MERG members about their spirit and focus as Astellas employees and service members.

MERG co-chair Stacie Cornfield, Sr. Exec. Rep., Hospital, is a veteran of the Illinois Air National Guard. She credits her military service for building upon the values she learned from her father, also a veteran. “The values of discipline, integrity, ownership for one’s responsibilities and hard work put me in a position to succeed as an Astellas sales rep,” said Cornfield.  

For the fourth consecutive year, Cornfield regularly purchases ingredients to prepare and serve meals at the Fisher House for veterans and their families on the Hines VA Hospital campus in suburban Chicago. She received the Astellas Sales team’s Ivan Martinez Award in recognition of her involvement with the Fisher House Foundation. Cornfield also helped spearhead the employee donation of nearly 2.2 million airline miles during last year’s Veterans Day donation drive. The miles will be used by service men and women to connect with loved ones’ bedside in a time of need, and was a joint effort between the MERG and the Fisher House Foundation. And Cornfield is putting a lot of work into the 2018 Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, as she did at last year’s event in Chicago. She anticipates that about 40 fellow MERG members will volunteer at the 2018 Warrior Games.

Matt Mercer, Regional Sales Manager, Hematology, spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1990s, including deployments to Kuwait and Somalia. Mercer says that when it comes to leadership skills, his time in the Marines developed and enhanced his leadership skills far more than he could have received from any MBA program. Mercer offered a few examples: “I try to lead by examples and I’m not going to ask anyone to do something that I can’t do. Also, I learned that you’re not going to be good unless everyone on your team is great.”

Similarly, one of Mercer’s priorities with MERG is to help recruit and retain people who developed or sharpened their leadership skills through service in the military, and can apply those skills to conducting business. Mercer teamed with Cornfield to serve as the MERG co-chair from its inception, and together they helped plan the first Spirit Run at Astellas’ National Sales Forum. Mercer also plans to use one of his five Astellas-sponsored volunteer days off to help out at the Warrior Games.

Tom Spencer, Regional Sales Manager, Specialty, is known widely as Brigadier General Spencer. During his 10 years in active service, General Spencer was an aviation officer and served as a company, battalion and Brigade Commander. He was stationed in Bosnia throughout 1996, and currently serves as Assistant Division Commander Support for the 42nd Infantry Division, covering the entire U.S. Northeast corridor.

At Astellas, General Spencer is known simply as Tom, the leader of a field sales team. “I call upon my military training to motivate and inspire others through open communication, predictability in my actions and the display of my emotions, and being sensitive to people’s needs,” said Spencer. In 2016, Spencer joined the effort to create new and unique HR policies that support the needs of Astellas colleagues serving in the military.

“It is my privilege to serve as the MERG executive sponsor. I am constantly inspired and humbled by the MERG members,” said Collette Taylor, Astellas senior vice president, Human Resources and Facilities. “The dedication of all the members is extraordinary, and I would like to add my voice of appreciation for the efforts of Tom, Stacie and Matt. They are truly representative of our shared commitment to support the needs of colleagues that currently serve in the military and to honor veterans, inside Astellas and throughout our communities.”