An­drew S. Gask­ins

Butch­ers Hill res­i­dent was a for­mer se­nior vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Fred­er­ick N. Ras­mussen

An­drew S. Gask­ins, for­mer se­nior vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land, the first African Amer­i­can ap­pointed to the agency’s ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment team, died April 3 of com­pli­ca­tions from an in­fec­tion at Greater Bal­ti­more Med­i­cal Cen­ter. The long­time Butch­ers Hill res­i­dent was 79.

“An­drew brought so many good peo­ple to­gether and he was such a great leader. He was both com­pas­sion­ate and car­ing,” said Harry Fox of Owings Mills, who worked for 45 years for Blue Cross and Blue Shield and re­tired in 2016 as di­rec­tor of ma­jor ac­count sales. “He al­ways of­fered great as­sis­tance and guid­ance, and was the bal­ance be­tween peo­ple and the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which was a great mar­riage.”

“Brother Gask­ins was a man for all sea­sons. He had a great mind and was al­ways such a big help and brought a lot to it. He had a political and so­cial con­science,” said the Rev. Hoff­man F. Brown, pas­tor of Way­land Bap­tist Church in North­west Bal­ti­more, where Mr. Gask­ins had been a mem­ber and wor­shiped since 2006.

“He also had a strong civic con­science,” said Mr. Brown, a North­west Bal­ti­more res­i­dent. “He had a tremen­dous heart and spirit, and we’re glad of it.”

An­drew Sa­muel Gask­ins, son of Howard Gask­ins, a chauf­feur and Crown Cork & Seal worker, and his wife, Sidna Elizabeth Pamilla Jones, a pub­lic school cross­ing guard, was born one of eight sib­lings in Bal­ti­more and raised in Cross Keys, which in those days was pri­mar­ily an African Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood that took its name from an 18th-cen­tury inn on Falls Road.

His iden­ti­cal twin, Alexan­der F. Gask­ins, died April 19 of COVID-19 at Si­nai Hos­pi­tal.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 1958 from Fred­er­ick Dou­glass High School, Mr. Gask­ins at­tended Mor­gan State Univer­sity be­fore en­list­ing in the Army in 1963. He was a grad­u­ate of the Army’s De­fense Lan­guage In­sti­tute For­eign Lan­guage Cen­ter in Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia, where he stud­ied Bul­gar­ian. Mr. Gask­ins , and served as a Bul­gar­ian lin­guist and editor in Mu­nich in the Army Se­cu­rity Agency un­til be­ing dis­charged in 1967.

Mr. Gask­ins be­gan his ca­reer in 1967 at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land, at its for­mer East Joppa Road head­quar­ters in Tow­son, as di­rec­tor of per­son­nel, train­ing and de­vel­op­ment for the com­pany’s 1,200 em­ploy­ees.

In 1969, he was named man­ager of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield per­son­nel depart­ment and in 1979 was pro­moted to vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources and vice pres­i­dent of ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He held a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions, most no­tably se­nior vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­la­tions, which distin­guished him as the first Black Amer­i­can ap­pointed top the ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment team in the com­pany,” his daugh­ter, Julie A. Gask­ins of Butch­ers Hill, wrote in a bi­o­graph­i­cal pro­file of her fa­ther.

“He led, man­aged, co­or­di­nated and di­rected nu­mer­ous ef­forts such as man­age­ment de­vel­op­ment, em­ployee com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fits, em­ployee/man­age­ment re­la­tions, or­ga­ni­za­tional/ hu­man re­sources de­vel­op­ment and cor­po­rate plan­ning,” Ms. Gask­ins wrote.

Genora L. Redd of Wood­lawn was Mr. Gask­ins’ sec­re­tary for 13 years.

“When you work in hu­man re­la­tions, the main is­sue is con­fi­den­tial­ity be­cause you see and know things,” Ms. Redd said. “He re­spected that I never be­trayed him. He was a very fair and friendly per­son who al­ways got right to the point when he spoke to you but did not chas­tise or em­bar­rass you. He was well-re­spected by the em­ploy­ees and was just a good boss.”

God­frey A. Streat of At­lanta was a di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources dur­ing Mr. Gask­ins’ ten­ure as vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources.

“An­drew was an ex­cel­lent men­tor who was al­ways try­ing to im­prove the peo­ple as well as the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He had very high stan­dards,” Mr. Streat said. “He de­vel­oped his se­nior staff and was al­ways avail­able to peo­ple.”

Mar­i­ann J. Um­stead cred­its Mr. Gask­ins as be­ing her men­tor.

“He was di­rec­tor and later vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources when I came here. He taught mea lot and was my­men­tor. He gave me my first man­age­ment op­por­tu­nity,” said Ms. Um­stead, a Fall­ston res­i­dent who re­tired from CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield a few years ago as man­ager of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion. “I al­ways thought very highly of An­drew. He was all busi­ness, but he was also a lot of fun.”

At times, Mr. Gask­ins and Ms. Um­stead had dif­fer­ences on an is­sue.

“The re­cep­tion­ist said she could al­ways tell when I was on the floor be­cause she could hear loud voices in An­drew’s of­fice,” she said with a laugh. “But it was al­ways a re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tion.”

Be­fore Blue Cross and Blue shield re­lo­cated to Owings Mills, Mr. Gask­ins dined fre­quently at the old Hersh’s Or­chard Inn on East Joppa Road near his of­fice.

“One time he didn’t go there for two weeks and they called won­der­ing if some­thing was the mat­ter or they had done some­thing wrong,” re­called Ms. Redd, who was a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant at the time of her re­tire­ment in 2010.

Pro­fes­sional mem­ber­ships in­cluded serv­ing as a board mem­ber and pres­i­dent of the Per­son­nel As­so­ci­a­tion of Greater Bal­ti­more, Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Train­ing and De­vel­op­ment and the Ch­e­sa­peake Hu­man Re­sources As­so­ci­a­tion. He was a for­mer co-chair of the Foun­da­tion Com­mit­tee for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land Inc.

Mr. Gask­ins re­tired in 1996. Civic-minded, he per­formed vol­un­teer com­mu­nity ser­vices with Mary­land New Di­rec­tions Inc. where he was a board mem­ber for many years and served as board pres­i­dent. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions that ben­e­fited from his ex­per­tise were Blind In­dus­tries and Ser­vices of Mary­land Inc., where he vol­un­teered for years and chaired its per­son­nel and pol­icy com­mit­tee.

He was a for­mer co-chair of the Bal­ti­more chap­ter of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of Chris­tians and Jews, and was a mem­ber of STEP Inc., Ac­tion for the Home­less. He was a mem­ber of Big Broth­ers and Big Sis­ters of Mary­land Inc.

A year be­fore he re­tired, he was asked by a for­mer pas­tor to as­sist the church by pro­vid­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port in mobilizing and or­ga­niz­ing houses of wor­ship, com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and neigh­bors to con­front the so­cial ills of the Gar­ri­son Boule­vard cor­ri­dor, which be­came known as Project Gar­ri­son. At its found­ing, he was elected pres­i­dent of its board.

Be­fore join­ing Way­land Bap­tist Church, Mr. Gask­ins was a mem­ber and held lead­er­ship po­si­tions at Mount Zion United Methodist Church and Gar­ri­son Boule­vard United Methodist Church, and as­sisted with the church’s merger with three other con­gre­ga­tions.

At Way­land, he was an adult teacher in the Bible class and as­sisted in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Res­ur­rec­tion Adult Assem­bly. He was an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in the church’s soup kitchen min­istry and the Ne­hemiah Project Min­istry. He was Way­land’s 2014 hon­oree at the 77th an­nual awards ban­quet and fel­low­ship pre­sented by the Mary­land Bap­tist Con­ven­tion of Chris­tian Ed­u­ca­tion.

His life part­ner of 30 years, Ulysses Cawthon, died in 2010.

Plans for a memo­rial ser­vice are in­com­plete.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter, he is sur­vived by a son, An­drew S. Gask­ins II of Cock­eysville; a brother, Thomas Gask­ins of Not­ting­ham; four sis­ters, Brenda Williams, Ann Carter and Pamela DeLoatch, all of Bal­ti­more, and Colleen Cary of West Dept­ford, New Jersey; and a grand­son. His mar­riage to the for­mer Dorothy Bennett ended in divorce.

An­drew S. Gask­ins worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mary­land from 1967 un­til his re­tire­ment in 1996.

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