By Dwight Hobbes
Cherise Rachel Vincent isn’t merely a presence in the room. She commands it. A lithe 5’5”, fluidly articulate with a pleasant yet frank demeanor, she arrests attention with understated authority. Which comes in handy for her professional capacity as a public face at Be The Match.
Specifically, she is associate human resources strategic business partner at the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match. On top of handling employee relations, Vincent partners with and provides coaching techniques for business leaders in such areas as talent and performance management, talent acquisition and education and training on general human resource matters.
She also is CEO and president of Loving Life Loving Me, LLC, specializing in health and wellness. For good measure, she holds a B.A. in speech communications and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
There’s still more to her vast professional scope, including sitting on several boards, but suffice to say that, in her line of work, you don’t get the job done by being a shrinking violet. And Cherise Vincent, it goes without saying, gets the job done.
Which makes one stop and think when you realize that this charismatic powerhouse is alive only by what she acknowledges to be the grace of God. “[It was] miraculous,” she attests.
In 1978, as an infant, only 11 months old, she underwent a lifesaving bone marrow transplant — one that nearly failed. Indeed, she was the lone child among eight patients receiving transplants who survived past the age of 16, something that’s never far from her mind.
“I was getting weaker and weaker,” she recalls. “The doctors told my parents, ‘She’s going to [die],’ and asked their permission to attempt an experimental procedure. They readily agreed, to what seemed no avail until, at the last hour — funeral arrangements were being made — the transplant, given by her nine-year old brother, Richmond, took.
Then the road to recovery began, a gradual on-going process, when she was around four years old, of regularly shuttling to the University of Minnesota to have blood drawn. “I had to have my blood checked pretty often.” Around age six, medical supervision eased up and transitioned to simply keeping an eye on her, watching out for any complications.
Eventually, she says, “I began having a normal life in my younger years, as a teen. Which is not common. Usually there is a problem with the host [not being able to accommodate] the donor’s immune system. But I was able to lead a regular life.”
That entailed pursuing a journalism career at the U. Until she graduated, took a good look at her prospects on the job market and decided she wasn’t much interested in being broke for a living. “So, I chose to go into human resources,” taking on a position interviewing and recruiting others to find work utilizing the skills she honed in academia, principally the art of effective communication.
Once she landed in the professional world, Vincent hit the ground running and, working at aerospace giant Honeywell, employed by Manpower, she staffed and sustained seven sites. More than the prestige of being employed at a big-name outfit — though, of course, she didn’t mind the salary — she enjoyed getting out and meeting people on behalf of the corporation.
“I love to talk,” she admits, adding with a laugh, “As a child, my mother would always tell me to shut up. This was a way to [utilize] it.” In the process, she got to contribute to the community, interfacing with institutions like Sabathani Community Center and Minneapolis Urban League to facilitate candidates of color getting in the corporate door.
At length, she came to a telling turn of events. On a richly ironic note, she now pays it forward at an organization that facilitates transplants.
“I wanted to give back and be a donor. But, unfortunately, I can’t because I’m a recipient.” So, she put the thought away until a head-hunter came calling while she was out of work with a lead to apply at a nonprofit. With no knowledge of which outfit it was (agencies don’t divulge that info, otherwise they could be circumvented), Vincent followed up and was informed the organization loved her on paper and was eager to interview her.
She was floored to find out it was Be The Match, probably no less so than the individual there who hired her. “I looked to the sky and said, ‘Thank you, God.’”
To this day, she is not entirely out of the woods. “Absolutely, there could be graft-versus-host disease complications at any time. My future is unknown, per my doctors, due to what was at the time considered an experimental treatment option.”
Her present, nonetheless, concretely is a hands-down success story considering what she’s been through and what she’s accomplished. To call Cherise Rachel Vincent an impressive individual is to woefully understate the case.
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