Two at the Top and One Who Gets the Credit
*As featured in the Grace Story magazine
Quentin Blackford (BS 99) and Matt Abernethy (BS 03) have a lot in common. Blackford is the CFO and COO of Dexcom (San Diego, California), a maker of glucose monitors for people with diabetes. Since joining the company in 2017, he’s led the company to a 40% year-over-year growth and an increase in the business’ revenue from $402 million to $1.47 billion. Currently, Dexcom is on track to grow its revenue by another 25% this year.
At the same time Blackford was joining Dexcom, Abernethy also made a move to San Diego. Relocating from Warsaw, Indiana, where he worked for Zimmer Biomet, Abernethy took a post as the CFO at Neurocrine Biosciences, which specializes in treating neurological diseases. After Abernethy joined the company in 2017, the company went from zero revenue to earning over $250 million in sales during the second quarter of this year. With a healthy profit now flowing, Neurocrine has been able to fund over $300 million in licensing arrangements to expand its efforts in discovering more medicines to help patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders.
San Diego Business Journal took notice of Quentin and Matt awarding them the prestigious 2020 CFO of the Year award in August where Blackford won the award for large sized public companies and Matt won the award for medium sized public companies. Neither of them is new to accolades. Their resumes are overflowing with honors and awards they would never boast about.
They are quick to share that running companies with hundreds and thousands of employees was never in their plans. In fact, with all they have in common — they both were raised in Indiana, played basketball for Jim “Coach K” Kessler (BS 70), dated their future wives (Brittney (Raber BA 04) Abernethy and Melissa (Whitley BA 00) Blackford) at Grace and grew their careers at orthopaedic giant Zimmer Biomet — they met only three years ago.
Blackford was a few years ahead of Abernethy at college, so they never sat together under their favorite professor, Dr. Roger Stichter, or played basketball at the same time for Coach K. It wasn’t until Abernethy was considering making a move out to California in 2017 to take the job with Neurocrine that he called Blackford. “Quentin had a great reputation. I’d heard of him; how well liked and successful he was,” says Abernethy.
Blackford had just transitioned into his new CFO role at Dexcom and was only too eager to talk with Abernethy. “I had started to hear about this talent coming up through the ranks, who had an impeccable reputation,” says Blackford. “Since we were in similar industries, his name kept coming up, and then I learned he was also a Grace grad.”
Although Blackford and Abernethy both found their way to Grace, how they got there is perhaps one of their few differences.
Blackford knew he wanted a Christian college education. “I needed that discipline and structure that would nurture me and keep me focused,” remembers Blackford. Grace gave him the Christian community he needed as well as personalized attention from faculty. Blackford wanted to go into accounting, and he’d seen Grace’s CPA success rates. Playing basketball for Coach K and learning from professors like Stichter changed his life. “I wouldn’t be prepared today for this experience had it not been for the spiritual foundation I received at Grace. Seeing how Coach K and my professors lived their faith out each day gave me the foundation to be successful at what I do today.” Blackford describes his experience at Grace as nothing short of “transformative.”
So does Abernethy: “It was life changing for me,” he says. But Abernethy had different plans after graduating from high school. “My goal in life was to play Division I basketball and chase fame, fortune and enjoy what the world had to offer,” he says, and when he earned a scholarship to play basketball at a Division I school in California, where his dad had played for the Lakers and also the Golden State Warriors, he thought his dreams were coming true. “I thought I had made it,” remembers Abernethy. But after making a series of poor decisions, he ended up taking his sophomore year off and wondered whether he’d ever go back to school, let alone play basketball. “My life was a complete wreck,” says Abernethy, “but through it, God took hold of my life.” During his year off from school, Abernethy was folding shirts at Old Navy when Coach K reached out to him and suggested he come to Grace. Abernethy felt like it was his second chance.
“Never in a million years did I think this would be my life or career trajectory,” he says. “I know I don’t deserve the opportunities I have been given. My goal through any recognition I receive is to make much of Him.”
Blackford echoes Abernethy’s gratitude. “I’ve been blessed beyond anything; it’s nothing but God giving me opportunities and stepping into them by faith.”