In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 10, 2022

How a suit became the thread that connected a group of colleagues

By In the Loop

You don't have to squint to notice that the 29 Mayo staff members pictured above have something in common. They're all wearing the same suit and tie. The ensemble has been passed around since 2016 as part of a quirky idea conceived by three colleagues.

Among the tens of thousands of Mayo staff pictured in the Mayo Clinic Directory, 29 share something you likely wouldn't notice unless you saw their photos lined up next to each other. The thread that binds them (quite literally) is a plaid suit and tie they wore for their portraits.

They're not wearing identical suits. There is just one. And that suit has been passed around since 2016 to anyone interested in wearing it for their Mayo portrait.

There's a story behind that. And an idea spun up by Zachary Fogarty, Computational Biology; Briant Fruth, Clinical Trials and Biostatistics; and Drew Seisler, Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. They are behind the dapperly dressed group they dubbed the "Mayo Clinic Distinguished Gentlemen of Mayo Clinic."

Plans with plaid

In 2011, Fogarty, Fruth and Seisler were hired as statistical programmer analysts at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. They shared an office and became good friends. When it was time to renew their Mayo Clinic portraits in 2016, they wanted to make good on an idea they had been kicking around for a while.

"We thought it would be fun if we all just wore the same jacket and tie, and a blue shirt with it," Seisler says.

Drew Seisler
Drew Seisler

The plans were dressed up when Fogarty inherited a tan suit from another co-worker who had bought it for $2 at an estate sale and gave it to Fogarty when he left Mayo. Fogarty purchased a matching tie from a clearance rack, and — with an agreement to wear a blue shirt — the ensemble was ready for its first appearance in the Mayo Clinic Directory.

"After all, when you start as a new employee, no one tells you that you're going to have your picture taken, and then you're locked into that picture for five years," Fogarty says. Why not make the most of it, he thought.

So in March 2016, the three men went to the photo studio and one after another had their portrait taken after swapping the suit and tie.

Of course, that didn't go unnoticed among Photography colleagues.

"At first, I thought it was an interesting choice in jacket since we so often see plain dark jackets," says Shalon Schneider, Media Support Services. "But when the first gentlemen passed the jacket to the next along with the tie, I chuckled and got to hear their plan."

Suited with confidence in their unusual plan, Fogarty, Fruth and Seisler decided to share their distinguished look with others.

Appealing apparel

At first, Fruth says they recruited others within their department to join the fun.

Briant Fruth
Briant Fruth

"We'd investigate who was coming up for a picture and send them an email, offering the opportunity. And a lot jumped on board right away," he says.

The interest spread from there, with others telling colleagues about "the opportunity." Email invitations were no longer necessary. Word of mouth buttoned it up. Those who wanted in on the fun were told where to find Fogarty's office to pick up the suit and tie and then return it after their photo shoot.

"Initially, we talked about growing out our facial hair, too, but we kept that a loose requirement, seeing that not everyone can have a beard on the job. So we kept it at the suit and tie, along with your blue shirt," Seisler says.

That also suited the interest of the first woman — Jennifer Seisler, Drew's mother — who decided she wanted to get in on the distinguished look.

Pandemic pause

When the COVID-19 pandemic began taking hold in 2020, the Mayo Clinic Distinguished Gentlemen of Mayo Clinic saw some wrinkles in their growth in numbers, what with the photo studio being shut down for a time. Those concerns ironed themselves out when the studio reopened.

"We received three or four requests right away," Fogarty says.

But a new challenge was that Fogarty had now transitioned to work remotely full time, which meant he had to find a new central location for the suit. His wife, Christine Kirt, who still works on campus, agreed to make the suit and tie available at her office.

"I've already directed a couple of people there," he says.

All are welcome

Fogarty, Fruth and Seisler continue to make the suit available to anyone of any gender who wants to join the Mayo Clinic Distinguished Gentlemen of Mayo Clinic.

"We never say no," Fogarty says.

Zachary Fogarty
Zachary Fogarty

And if you've been wondering about the slightly repetitive name of the group, Seisler can explain.

"We wanted to add a little redundancy for fun, and to be extra outrageous," he says with a chuckle. "We were just spitballing in the office one day and thought we might as well make it sound as cool as possible."

While the only connection among members of the group is the shared suit and tie ― and the photo to prove it ― Fogarty says he wouldn't mind more interactions beyond the occasional email he sends to the group.

Meantime, the Photography team is starting to see the second go-around, as some staff are returning with the suit and tie for their next five-year portrait. And Schneider is happy to be there to capture it.

"It cracks me up," she says. "So often at work, we forget to have fun, and this has been entertaining to watch through the years. The Mayo Clinic Distinguished Gentlemen of Mayo Clinic is the type of harmless, silly fun we need to remember to have. I love it for all its quirkiness."

Fogarty, Fruth and Seisler couldn't agree more, noting those who want to borrow the suit for a photo should know where to find them. They didn't get all dressed up for nothing.


Tags: Briant Fruth, Christine Kirt, Drew Seisler, Employee Stories, Jennifer Seisler, Shalon Schneider, Zachary Fogarty

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