Growing up very poor in the mid-West (his parents worked in a Ford assembly plant and lost their jobs during the 1970s recession), he wanted to play on a baseball team. He only had a plastic K-Mart glove that the coach said he needed to replace to be safe. His mom scraped together money to buy the leather mitt, sparking a fight with his father. He showed up with the plastic mitt at the next practice and the coach asked why. When Kirk told the story, the coach said he would pay for the glove.
A second turning point came when he was enrolled in college. His family had no money to help so he worked 18 months full-time managing a fast-food restaurant and then enrolled in college, while maintaining the job. He only slept for a couple of hours on school days that ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. he told attendees at the 7th annual Tri-Valley Prayer Breakfast Monday.
He finally hit the wall and planned to leave full-time college and enroll in night school. He told one instructor his plan and she urged him to go talk to the dean. When he walked into the office, the secretary told him the soonest appointment was six weeks away. The dean then walked in, saw what was happening and invited him into his office.
After Kirk laid out his situation, the dean left the room and came back with a sheet of paper offering a full scholarship. His requirement: leave the university a better place. Kirk did exactly that, becoming involved in many programs and serving as student body president.
He then moved to a career at Cincinnati-based Proctor and Gamble. He climbed the ranks quickly and he and his wife had their first two children. An overseas posting to Korea and Japan followed for six years, but was interrupted by a life-changing event.
His six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It was during that time in the hospital time that he met a Christian dad, whose daughter was undergoing experimental treatment for a brain tumor. That man’s peace struck home with Kirk who grew up with no faith background. When his daughter was back in for another life-threatening surgery, he fell to his knees and turned to God. That surgery went way better than expected and they established family life, professional life and church life in Cincinnati.
Then Google came calling with a six-month courtship that neither Kirk nor his wife was interested in. As he wrestled with the decision, he sent a video of him giving a message on a Sunday morning so the human resources executives recruiting him knew what they were getting. He didn’t hear back immediately, but one finally responded, “Google will love you and you will love Google.” He came on board as president of Brand Solutions.
When he finally heard back from the other person, the woman wrote that she had been busy dealing with her daughter’s cancer and was grateful that Kirk would be available to help her through it. Kirk’s daughter is now in her 20s and teaching school.
His journey was not over—4½ years ago he was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He has about 500 people in his group, so he decided to send a video to all of them—an idea one boss was not particularly excited about. Kirk did it anyway, sharing his faith in context of the cancer. When he came to the office the next day, he had 350 emails responding to the video. As he reflected, because he was in the Bay Area, he had surgery by a world-class surgeon at UCSF and was treated at Stanford Health.
He’s been cancer-free since the treatment.
His core message—how his life had been changed by radical generosity of a few people and his faith.