LINC leader Landon Rowland dies

Landon Rowland, who led LINC for 21 years, died Monday, Dec. 28, at his home.

Memorial services are planned for 3 pm Friday, Jan. 8, at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. Kansas City, MO 64105. A 4 pm reception at the Cathedral will follow.

Read the obituary. 

Landon Rowland

Rowland was on the initial LINC Commission established in November 1992 and succeeded Bert Berkley (LINC's Founder) as chair in December 1995.

Read Kansas City Star story | Kansas City Business Journal story.

Rowland's exuberance, wide-ranging interests, and deep sense of social justice encouraged the young organization to act on opportunities, be highly accountable to the community, and be stalwart stewards of the funds received.

While highly connected, Rowland deeply valued LINC's grassroots commitments to "serve the community in need" and its "bottoms up" approach.

Rowland would speak frequently and enthusiastically about LINC to international visitors brought to Kansas City by the U.S. State Department to learn about building a civil society in their own country and also about corporate social responsibility. He always emphasized the importance of the "rule of law" and the "freedom to assemble."

He was indefatigable in his efforts, always sending notes or articles to an extensive network of friends and potential collaborators. He avoided using email, but would make endless phone phones calls to others about what needed to be done in the community regarding employment, child care, health care, and neighborhood and economic development.

Early in his tenure at LINC, Rowland authored the LINC Approach, which clarified LINC's work for those who struggled to understand what the state-funded non-profit was about.

Rowland made clear that LINC was "not a program" but "a process" in which "the group exercises restraint in authority over public programs, but puts unlimited emphasis on process, especially fairness and inclusion."

Other values promoted the "LINC Approach" include volunteer leadership, professional development, training, collaboration, governance, staff and a broader view of the all the resources available to meet a community need.

Rowland considered LINC a "dynamic and lively process" and "a Darwinian kind of exercise" that adapted and thrived. Read extended comments.

His financial acumen also helped LINC establish a strong financial base, which served LINC well during the Great Recession (2007) when other non-profits had to cut back severely or collapsed.

The work was very innovative for the time. In 2000, Rowland and Berkley received the Distinguished Service to State Government from the National Governors Association. Prior to that LINC was twice a semi-finalist in the Innovations in American Government program.

In 1998, Rowland, Berkley, and others undertook a 10-day study tour of Israel to share the work being done in Missouri. An inveterate international traveler, Rowland was always sharing ideas he saw in the developing world which offered promising approaches in the U.S. — the richest nation in the world.

Rowland was a brilliant extemporaneous speaker, able to capture a moment or share an idea with powerful, evocative language. In short, he was terribly engaging.

Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City

Rowland was instrumental in the creation of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

In 2002, the non-profit Health Midwest health care system announced it was for sale. The eventual buyer was the for-profit HCA health care system, which offered over $1 billion for the regional health care system.

Rowland asked then Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon to hold public hearings on the sale, and LINC developed and shared extensive information on the transaction.

Rowland and others associated with LINC provided written testimony at the initial Missouri public hearing — the first of several held in Missouri and Kansas which ultimately led to creation of the two health care foundations.

"The proposed sale is a historic deal," Rowland said at the first Nov. 18, 2002, public hearing. "It is a major transaction by any business measure — sales price, employees, revenues, assets, etc. But it is unlike any business deal seen by the members of this community, because it truly can affect their health and well-being for decades to come."

Led by Rowland, LINC also advanced a set of principles which mostly were realized in the hospital sale and creation of the health care foundations. Those principles, shared at that initial Nov. 18 public hearing, were:

The Local Investment Commission (LINC) believes and will support efforts to insure the broadest possible community participation in this transaction.

LINC believes there are many community voices that have not been heard on this matter and that more public hearings are needed.

LINC supports a foundation that will continue “as close as possible” Health Midwest’s prior charitable purposes.

LINC believes that community needs, by necessity, need to be identified through an open and inclusive process.

LINC supports a new charitable foundation that is open (required to meet under the state’s public meeting law), fully includes the community and is accountable to community needs.

LINC believes that interested community partners need to convene and discuss in detail this transaction to review and discuss the public documents that Health Midwest and HCA will submit to the Missouri Attorney General.

Rowland and fellow LINC Commissioner David Ross were selected to serve on the initial HCF board and were instrumental in encouraging HCF to sue HCA for failure to meet public commitments made as a condition of the sale.

A Jackson County judged recently ordered a $433 million judgment against HCA, which has publicly said it will appeal.

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Landon Rowland: Gladstone's Hero

First-grade students at Gladstone Elementary (Kansas City Public Schools) in 2015 selected Rowland for the Hero project — a year-long exploration of the life of a Kansas City leader and hero.

The students create bulletin boards, draw portraits and study the attributes and accomplishments of that year's hero. The project culminates with the production of a music video with the assistance of area musician Bob Walkenhorst. See previous videos.

One of the early heroes was baseball player Buck O'Neil. The Hero project, then at Garcia Elementary, produced a construction-paper life story of the much beloved baseball player; Rowland and LINC helped published the project as a children's book, Give it Up for Buck.

This year's students received a booklet highlighting Rowland's many interests and accomplishments.

Though he had never met him, Osamah al-Rikabi, a refugee from Iraq and a LINC Gladstone staff member, painted an oil portrait of Rowland (watch al-Rikabi discuss the paining in the above video).


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