After a successful kidney transplant, former drummer hasn’t missed a beat
“I was impressed with his teaching style,” said student Sharon Stiffler of Hillsboro, Ore. “My first impression was his calm manner. He is confident in his teaching. He has a lot of experience and it showed. It was a fun class and a great way to learn.”
Ashby brings many years of public purchasing experience to his role as master instructor for the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP). While he has taught various courses over the years, he currently focuses on contract administration and managing RFPs in the public sector, which are two of the six foundation courses offered by the NIGP for the public procurement profession.
Ashby also has been active in other areas of education. He is a former chairman of the Education and Professional Development Committee for the NIGP, as well as a member of the Public Procurement Research Center at Florida Atlantic University.
Ashby’s favorite aspect of teaching is watching his students grow professionally.
“When I see my students a year or two later and see how much they have developed, I feel I have made a difference in their professional lives,” Ashby said.
Not surprisingly, Ashby believes that education is a key to success in the purchasing profession, and he said that he is humbled to be able to contribute to the success of so many others through his teaching.
A passion for music
While Ashby has a great deal of traditional experience (he served as purchasing director for Denver Public Schools and procurement specialist for the city of Fort Collins, Colo., prior to his current position), his unique background sets him apart from most in the profession.
After all, few professional purchasers can say that they played drums with Earth, Wind and Fire—which Ashby did for about six years. As a studio musician, he also played with legends such as Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Phil Collins, the Commodores and Rick James.
As glamorous as that might sound, though, Ashby downplayed his former life as a professional musician.
“I don’t see myself as being any different from anybody else,” Ashby said. “Playing music was a dream I had, just like anybody who has a lifelong dream to become a doctor or any other profession.”
Ashby, who today is the purchasing manager for Arapahoe County, Colo., insisted that his former career as a professional drummer is “really the past for me.”
“It’s not who I am now,” he said. “I don’t like to brag and boast a lot.”
While Ashby acknowledged that each of the world-renowned artists with whom he played has had an influence on him, he said that his greatest hero is his mother.
“She told me I could do anything I set my mind to,” Ashby said. “[She] was the first person to support and encourage me to pursue music.”
A turning point in Ashby’s life came when he was awarded custody of his 5-year-old daughter, Robyn, who now is 33. At that point, he realized that he needed to retire from life “on the road.” He traded his drum kit for a job as a government contractor, and later he transitioned to a career in public-sector purchasing and contracting.
A passion for awareness
In 2006, a successful kidney transplant gave Ashby a second chance at life. Since then, his renewed passion for life has been equaled only by his passion for spreading the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation.
After his transplant, Earth, Wind and Fire performed a benefit concert in Denver for Ashby and the American Transplant Foundation.
This summer, Ashby will participate in the National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh. As a member of Team Rocky Mountain—a group of transplant recipients from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah—Ashby will run in a 5K and compete in other events to raise awareness of the need for more organ donors.
After being given a second chance at life, Ashby is forever committed to telling his story. He explained that there is no greater gift than the “gift of life to another person who is in need.”
Clearly, there is much to learn from this month’s featured procurement professional, Keith Ashby.
About the author
Darin Matthews is the immediate past president of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing and serves as the chief procurement officer for Metro, the regional government of Portland, Ore. Contact him at [email protected].