Warner Baxter named CEO of the Year by the American Cancer Society
What compels a busy executive to get involved with the American Cancer Society? For Ameren Missouri Chairman, President and CEO Warner Baxter, watching his father lose the fight against cancer, and his brother survive the disease, propelled him to do more than write checks.
“I wanted to play a more active role in general,” says Baxter, chair of the 35-member St. Louis chapter of the American Cancer Society CEOs Against Cancer® program. Baxter received the American Cancer Society’s CEO of the Year Award on November 16 in Atlanta.
When Baxter met former University of Missouri men’s basketball coach Norm Stewart a few years ago at an American Cancer Society Coaches vs. Cancer® event in St. Louis, the coach urged him not to try his best to help, but to “do what you can do” in his position as CEO. Baxter heeded the advice, and founded the St. Louis Chapter of CEOs Against Cancer in 2011. He then attended an American Cancer Society meeting about the global impact of cancer and other chronic diseases during a special high-level gathering on the topic at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Baxter was astounded by what he learned.
“I truly saw the problem of cancer, the challenge of it on a global scale, and that while progress is being made in the fight against cancer here and abroad, it’s also showing signs of slowing,” says Baxter, Ameren Missouri’s CEO since 2009. He thought, “Here is an opportunity for the private sector to step up.”
And Baxter stepped up. With his encouragement, Ameren employees have walked in 35 American Cancer Society Relay For Life® events to raise funds and awareness to save lives from cancer. This August, Baxter led a two-day event to recruit participants for the Society’s critical Cancer Prevention Study-3, which will help researchers better understand this disease. Ameren also is implementing plans to address tobacco use in its workplace, and its 9,000 employees can access free counseling and tobacco-cessation treatments. Baxter has also led efforts to have the CEOs Against Cancer and the Coaches vs. Cancer groups work together in the fight against cancer.
Baxter says he’s honored by the CEO of the Year award, but credits cancer patients, caregivers, researchers and volunteers as the true heroes. He urges other corporate leaders to step up as he did.
“CEOs can do so much more than raise funds,” Baxter says. “We can also raise cancer awareness. We can set the wellness tone for our companies and communities. We can work together with the American Cancer Society on strategies to help people stay well, get well, find cures, and fight back.”