They called it The Marion Spirit.
It was perhaps the most potent compound Ewing Kauffman and his associates at
Marion Laboratories ever concocted as they built one of the world's leading
". . . there was one more indispensable ingredient in this heady elixir
for success—that elusive something Kauffman called 'The Marion Spirit,'" wrote
Kauffman's biographer and former trustee Anne Hodges Morgan.
Ewing Kauffman stirred The Marion Spirit by connecting with his associates
and reminding them that a group of common people working together can achieve
uncommon results. He led associate meetings from the company's loading dock and,
when the company outgrew that venue, he took the stage of the auditorium of the
Baptiste Junior High School in Kansas City, Missouri, for quarterly "Marion on
the Move" meetings, where he praised associates and set expectations even
higher. When Ewing Kauffman told his associates, "You're the best," they not
only believed him, they delivered.
From the time he opened for business, operating out of the basement of his
modest Kansas City home, until the day he relinquished control of the company in
1989, Mr. Kauffman built Marion Labs into a Fortune 500 company with 2,500 local
associates and the area's most widely held stock in the late 1980s. Associates
remember the company earning revenues of $23 million a year in 1970 and growing
to generate $23 million a day in the span of two decades.
Mr. Kauffman liked to say that Marion Labs was built on promises. And the
promise paid off for his loyal associates. When Marion Labs merged with Merrell
Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., more than 300 Marion associates became millionaires,
with estimates saying the company entrusted a total of $775 million to its
A Legacy of Innovators
Today, fifteen years after Ewing Kauffman's death, Marion Laboratories has
been reconfigured into the corporate lineage of a handful of pharmaceutical
firms, but you will find embers of The Marion Spirit sparking innovation and
fueling the growth of scores of businesses.
Sprinkled throughout the United States, and following in the footsteps of
Ewing Kauffman and Marion Labs, a number of firms dot the landscape of
In fact, it's estimated that more than fifty companies in the Kansas City
area alone trace their roots to Marion Labs. In addition to spanning a
generation of entrepreneurs, Marion has been credited with helping to foster the
development of an entire industry in the Kansas City region. The area's
burgeoning life sciences economy has been fueled by research universities,
leadership in the animal health and plant sciences sectors, and one of the
nation's leading concentrations of large contract research organizations for
companies that are going through clinical trials.
Here's a partial list of Marion associates who carry the spirit of
- Joe Brandmeyer founded Enturia, which produces ChloraPrep, a
preoperative skin preparation.
- James Laufenberg founded ImmunoGenetix Therapeutics Inc., a
biotechnology company created to commercialize HIV research.
- Diane Seif launched RxCCI, a pharmaceutical consulting firm,
before opening DVA Enterprises to advise emerging
- Tom Olofson founded EPIQ Systems Inc. with a team of former
Marion associates to provide proprietary software for legal firms.
- Bob Jewell started Network Integrations Services to design
integrated business networks.
- Frank Capan founded InTouch Solutions to provide information
technology to pharmaceutical companies.
- Michael Beckloff opened Beckloff & Associates to help
companies obtain marketing approval for drugs, biologics, and medical
- Nancy Lang founded Cultural Horizons to provide consulting for
global business development and international markets.
- Larry Wheeler founded Boasberg\Wheeler Communications, which
offers marketing communication services.
- Rip Grossman founded Grossman & Associates to provide
international health care consulting.
- Vicente Anido Jr., a serial entrepreneur, now heads ISTA
Pharmaceuticals, which develops ophthalmology treatments.
- Judith Hemberger opened Pharmion with a team of Marion
associates to develop cancer and hematology treatments, including Vidaza and
- Peter Higuchi founded CyDex to produce Capitsol, a compound
that makes drugs water-soluble, before joining former Marion colleagues James
Byrnes and Susan Prather at airPharma, to develop Zofac, an asthma
medication, and Axifa, an anti-inflammatory compound for cystic fibrosis.
- Barb Geiger founded Worldwide Clinical Research to provide
clinical research services for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
- Larry Downey founded Teva Neuroscience, which is brimming with
former Marion associates, and which markets Copaxone and Azilect to combat
The list goes on, and so does The Marion Spirit. The Kauffman legacy is just
one of the ripples of entrepreneurship. It demonstrates the impact of a single
entrepreneur making lives better with an innovation, creating hundreds and even
thousands of jobs, and growing the economy locally, nationally, and globally.
The entrepreneurs grounded in the Marion way brought more than technical
expertise to their new endeavors. Many of them reinvested the share of the money
that came to them with the Marion merger to get their ideas off the ground and
ultimately create even more wealth. Their businesses continue to thrive, adding
to Ewing Kauffman's legacy.
It's The Marion Spirit; the spirit of entrepreneurship.