Aristotle wrote, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” This is certainly true for second-year student Avi Kremer (OI) who recently made the brave decision to return to HBS despite his mounting battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. ALS is the same fatal neurodegenerative disorder that killed American baseball legend Lou Gehrig and adopted his name. Like Gehrig, Kremer is exceptionally optimistic in the face of this tremendous adversity.
For 140 years, ALS has remained a mystery for researchers and physicians. Today’s ALS patients face the same fate as those diagnosed in the 19th Century: rapid progression of muscle loss, paralysis, and eventually death within three to five years. Worldwide, over 20,000 people die from ALS each year and those who live with it have no hope of survival.
Diagnosed with ALS in the late fall of his first year at HBS, Kremer immediately pledged to bring hope to those who suffer from this horrible illness. He inspired his sectionmates, professors and the HBS community to raise over $150,000 for ALS research. Instilling a sense of urgency in others, Kremer claimed, “I am fighting for my life, but I am not alone in this battle. My section and I wanted to raise awareness about ALS and support research to find a cure.” Kremer had yet begun to fight.
In the summer of 2005, Kremer returned to his homeland in Israel to pursue a private- equity internship. At the same time, he became heavily involved in the Israeli ALS nonprofit IsrALS. As the disease began to affect him more, Kremer decided it best to dedicate all of his time to the nonprofit’s efforts. Mobilizing a team of friends and colleagues, he launched an “intrapreneurship” program at IsrALS to raise money and awareness for ALS research.
Prior to HBS, Kremer dreamed of becoming a CEO. “I wanted to make a difference, mark my name in the history pages, and I thought that all I would have to do is choose between the Fortune 500 companies that would offer me the opportunity to become their CEO,” he said. Kremer’s words proved prophetic. While not quite a Fortune 500 company, IsrALS promoted him to its top position.
Kremer recognized the value of his work in Israel and decided to postpone the first term of his EC year. He worked diligently to consolidate ALS nonprofits throughout the country and bring together researchers, donors and investors. Understanding the power of the media, Kremer appeared on national television and in major print publications to build awareness about the disease. Ultimately, Kremer oversaw the collection of $2 million dollars to support major ALS research projects at six of Israel’s top universities.
In January of 2006, Kremer returned to HBS to expand his fight in the U.S. While Kremer intends to complete the MBA program, he is focused on providing a catalyst to find an effective treatment for ALS.
“While it is great to be a strong example for people suffering from this disease, I am most concerned with delivering real hope-there are over 100,000 patients who desperately need it,” he said emphatically. Racing against time, Kremer, along with some of his OI sectionmates and a group of RC students, plans to launch another campaign for ALS research this semester. The group hopes to surpass last year’s achievements and give an even bigger boost to ALS research.
“Since being back at HBS, it has been a struggle to do some of the smallest tasks that I once took for granted. Now each step I take, each word I speak, and each breath I breathe is a blessing,” Kremer said, adding, “The courage you can find within yourself is truly amazing when you realize you are in a fight for your life.”