Arthur and Betsy Beckert

Last month, Sarcoma Alliance announced that our Executive Director, Arthur Beckert, is retiring.
At the same time, the Alliance announced the dedication of The Arthur Beckert Education Fund – a Sarcoma Alliance fund committed to the education of sarcoma patients, families, caregivers, and Sarcoma Alliance staff. Click here to make a donation today.
While we are going to miss Arthur, we will be forever grateful for his many contributions to Sarcoma Alliance and our mission.  We are also looking forward to a bright future with our new Executive Director – stay tuned for news on that very soon – Arthur and the new Director are already working together to assure a smooth transition.
Arthur was kind enough to exchange a few emails and sit down with me to discuss his time at the Alliance and his plans for retirement.
How much did you know about sarcoma before you started your work with Sarcoma Alliance?
Immediately after I was hired as the Executive Director, I reviewed all of the Sarcoma Alliance resources and remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of subtypes (more than fifty). Other than osteosarcoma and Kaposi sarcoma, I was not very familiar with sarcoma. I even remember trying to figure out how to pronounce some of them, such as leiomyosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma.
Through my previous work with the state medical association, San Francisco General Hospital, and various health insurance companies, I knew the issues that someone faces during an unexpected health crisis or devastating diagnosis. What I most needed to learn were the special challenges that people with sarcoma face. For example, getting good information about the diagnosis, where to get treatment, what treatments might be suggested and why.
You’ve been with us since 2004; at some point you must have decided that this was more than “just a job,” can you recall when that was?
There was no single moment when I realized that being a part of Sarcoma Alliance was more than the responsibilities outlined in the job description.
During my career, I have always looked for positions that challenge me professionally and put me in touch with great groups of people. When I started with Sarcoma Alliance, I was excited by the opportunity to lead and help shape such an important organization.
At the time, the Alliance was being managed by an extraordinary group of volunteers – family and friends of our founder, the late Suzanne Leider. This early Board of Directors made sure that the Alliance would continue to exist and be able to grow during the coming years by continuing its mission and raising sufficient funds to hire full-time staff. They were the ones who gave me a firm understanding of the needs of the sarcoma community.

Arthur Beckert and sarcoma survivor Jared Holmes

You have connected with some pretty incredible people during your time with SA – are there any that stand out in particular?  
It would be impossible to choose one person or even a small group of people. There have been so many meaningful discussions over the years.
I have to say that I have been very fortunate to work with such a great group of Directors at Sarcoma Alliance. They are committed and passionate about the mission, and very supportive of me. 
I am always impressed with other advocates and their incredible commitment to the sarcoma community, whether it is support of the individual or working to improve the diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma.
Finally, and most importantly, are the hundreds of conversations I have had with individuals affected by sarcoma. Often, they desperately want to talk with someone who can give them accurate, honest advice and recommendations. Their gratitude, even when I am not able to give answers that I wish I could, is palpable.
The most difficult of these calls are from those who have an expectation that we will be able to give them “The Answer,” that single perfect piece of advice for their situation. 
What is your proudest accomplishment in your work with SA? What would you have liked to accomplish?
The greatest gift I have given the Sarcoma Alliance is its success and stability over the last nine years. It was an exciting transition from an organization that was run by an all-volunteer Board of Directors to one with full-time paid staff.
The Alliance has been able to accomplish so much and like any dynamic organization my to-do list is always growing just about as fast as other items can be checked off. I will be happy to pass my list on to my successor and I am sure there will always be new projects.
The Beckert Family, Hawaii 2012
Front: Arthur, Betsy, Molly
Back: Spencer, Rachael
The image of retirement is changing so quickly. What does it mean to you? How will you spend your first day of retirement?
During the week, I get up at 5:05 AM. I’ll never be a late sleeper, but after I retire, my 5AM wake up calls will be something of a fond memory. 
I begin most days with a run – either on the roads of Mill Valley (California) or on the trails of the incredible parks we have nearby. I have been running since 1966, the routine won’t change after retirement, but I will be able to start a little later and run with some of my wonderful friends rather than facing dark, and the sometimes cold, wet mornings by myself.
Fortunately, I love working around the house and in our garden because there’s a lengthy list of projects waiting for me.
My wife will retire next summer and together we will hike on the many miles of trails throughout Marin County. We also have a “bucket list” of travel adventures that is much longer than we will ever be able to accomplish – we will have to prioritize.
There will also be lots of time with my three kids who are involved in incredibly divergent careers of medicine, nonprofit work, and animation.
One thing I won’t be – bored.
And, finally, what is the biggest piece of advice you have for the person stepping into your shoes?
The focus of the Sarcoma Alliance is guidance, education, and support for everyone affected by sarcoma. The next Executive Director needs to be a good listener – sensitive and compassionate with advice and support. 

Sarcoma Alliance supports those affected by sarcoma. All of the services we provide are offered at no charge. To make a donation today, please visit our website.