Sister Gretchen Kunz, OSF, FACHE, President and CEO of St. Joseph Health System (SJHS), has announced plans to transition from her role as leader of the Health System to work with the Health System’s charitable organization, St. Joseph Foundation.
Sister Gretchen, who has led the St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph Health System for more than two decades, will step out of her leadership position on June 13 of this year – exactly 24 years to the day after arriving in Bryan/College Station.
Sister Gretchen informed the Health System Board of Trustees of her transition plan at a regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday evening. In her remarks to the board and leadership staff, Sister Gretchen said, “We are all in a relay race and all have the same goal in sight, but in any relay race there comes a time to pass on the baton to the next runner.”
Sister Gretchen complemented the board and staff for their vision and leadership of the health system, and told them she looks forward to continuing work in the community through the charitable St. Joseph Foundation. “But you can always count on my prayers and my support in this work,” she added.
Sister Gretchen’s community roots go back to 1981 when, after serving as a teacher as well as a registered nurse, she came to what was then St. Joseph Hospital during a time when the facility was struggling financially. During her tenure, the facility has grown substantially, adding new programs such as cardiac and cancer, as well as expanding regionally to include rural hospitals, clinics, and long-term care services.
“From the day Sister Gretchen arrived in Bryan-College Station she has been a forerunner in innovation and in far-reaching health initiatives,” said John Hall, M.D., a longtime family practice physician and former St. Joseph governance member. “She started a revolution in health care in our community.”
Sister Gretchen recounted that during the 1980’s St. Joseph finished out, and then expanded, a hospital that was just turning ten years old. Then, in 1987, the hospital began its cardiac program to meet the needs of community members who were traveling almost 100 miles to get cardiac care. “There have been many wonderful projects during the years,” said Sister Gretchen, “culminating with the recent opening of the magnificent new patient tower.”
“It has been a challenging and exciting journey these last 24 years at St. Joseph,” said Sister Gretchen. “There have been many opportunities to meet expanding and growing community health needs.”
Following Sister Gretchen’s announcement, St. Joseph Health System leaders said there is a plan for leadership transition. “St. Joseph Health System has a leadership succession plan in place,” said Sheran Riley, Chairperson of the St. Joseph Health System Board of Trustees. “That succession process already is underway and we look forward to a very smooth transition in leadership.”
Riley praised Sister Gretchen for her leadership and vision. “I have worked with Sister for over 20 years and have seen her dedication and determination not only in improving the quality of health care services available in the Brazos Valley, but also in working to improve the health of each person in our community,” said Riley. Riley emphasized the very visible role Sister Gretchen has by telling her, “To the people of this community, you are St. Joseph Health System.”
Sister Gretchen was the first and only leader of St. Joseph Health System, a group of integrated healthcare corporations, which had its start in 1987. The Health System grew in the 1990’s as rural communities in Caldwell, Madisonville and Navasota asked St. Joseph to help them operate their hospitals. As the health system took shape it expanded to include managed care, long term care, development, and property management – all of which led to the creation of St. Joseph Health System in 1999.
St. Joseph Health System is a member of Franciscan Services Corporation (FSC), the health and human services ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio. John O’Connell, President of FSC who has worked with Sister Gretchen more than 20 years, said “In addition to playing a key role in the development of Franciscan Services Corporation, Sister Gretchen’s charismatic leadership has enabled St. Joseph hospital to develop to become St. Joseph Health System. She also led the way in establishing St. Joseph Regional Health Center as the premier health facility in Bryan-College Station,” said O’Connell.”
“We congratulate Sister Gretchen on her very successful professional career and many contributions to our health system and the health ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio,” said O’Connell.