(Doug Spitler and incoming CEO Laura Lamb.)
The end of 2016, we confess, is a bit bittersweet for all of us here at Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). That’s because, after more than 30 years at the helm, our President and CEO, Doug Spitler, is stepping down. He retires having led ERS through many significant transformations.
Today, we’d like to take a moment to recap Spitler’s career and show you just how instrumental he’s been in changing senior care for the better in the Tristate.
A rock star in the world of retirement care
Spitler didn’t always have his eyes set on a career in senior care. He was once the guitarist — and a fairly serious one — in a professional rock band. But following his 1972 graduation from Miami University with a degree in gerontological studies, he made it his priority to change retirement care for the better.
When he first began his work, most retirement homes looked and felt institutional. They relied heavily on fluorescent lighting. Rooms were small. The whole experience was reminiscent of stepping into a hospital — not very cheery or enriching.
But Spitler endeavored to change all that. Shortly after coming to ERS (then Memorial Homes Foundation) in the early 1980s, he was promoted to CEO and president. And he could already see that the future of senior care needed to be less institutional. He steered us toward a person-centered model of care.
In 1986, under his direction, we launched our Enriched Home Health Care program. By 1990, we had expanded Deupree Meals On Wheels to cover most of Greater Cincinnati’s east side. During the ’90s, we received national accreditation, but still Spitler pushed our organization to expand its vision.
The realization of person-centered care
Through the 2000s, Spitler worked tirelessly to help us become a true provider of person-centered care. We constructed independent living apartments at Deupree House and opened Deupree Cottages, transitioning that community to a complete progressive care model.
“One of my proudest moments as CEO was when we opened Deupree Cottages and made the decision to commit to a better, more person-centric model of services for older adults who are more independent,” Spitler said. “We serve some truly wonderful residents, and we do our best here to provide the finest care possible.”
“What is remarkable about Doug’s leadership is his respect for the dignity of each person — each resident, each staff member, each client — regardless of their position or possible contribution to the organization.”
We launched Living Well Senior Solutions, which helps older people aging in place (and their family caregivers) to better manage care resources and plan for the future. In 2012, we received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
And we began partnering with other organizations — first with the Lutheran Benevolent Society to take over day-to-day management of St. Paul Village in Madisonville, then with other organizations, including our most recent partnership with Louisville’s Episcopal Church Home.
Under Spitler’s guidance, we’ve grown from a small group of Cincinnati-area retirement homes into a regional retirement care leader, providing a comprehensive set of home-based, community-based and inpatient senior services. Today, we manage retirement communities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The Affordable Care by ERS initiative has greatly increased the number of apartments available to Tristate seniors of limited means.
Deupree Meals On Wheels provides thousands of meals annually to Cincinnati seniors in need. And our Parish Health Ministry and Living Well Senior Solutions provide community-based care services to many more.
Describing Doug Spitler’s legacy
Spitler’s work has touched many lives — seniors, their family members, ERS employees, and people in the community at large — and many have echoed our praise of him.
“Doug is a wonderful leader with a deep commitment to the person-centered care ministry of ERS,” said Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal, of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. “What is remarkable about Doug’s leadership is his respect for the dignity of each person — each resident, each staff member, each client — regardless of their position or possible contribution to the organization.”
“I have worked with many nonprofit and for-profit CEOs in my consulting work, and Doug stands out as a unique and highly effective leader,” agreed Harry Kangis, a former member of ERS’ Board of Directors. “He shows unwavering attention to the people ERS serves and to the ERS organization—every day it’s about them, not him. In my 11 years working with Doug, he has kept ERS looking forward.”
Bill Knodel, a current member of our Board of Directors and Chair of the ERS Foundation’s Board of Directors, perhaps said it best.
“While we can look at the ‘measurable things’ — numbers of residents, AL [Affordable Living] growth, etc. — I think the most impressive accomplishment is the quality of the organization that Doug has developed and led,” he wrote.
“Doug Spitler understands that his legacy will be measured not only by his accomplishments but also by the successes of the leaders he has developed,” wrote incoming ERS CEO Laura Lamb, in her letter to LeadingAge Ohio, nominating Spitler for its Leadership Award of Honor last year.
“He has been on the forefront of putting systems in place to ensure that leadership development remains a consistent and constant focus for aging care,” she said.
We’ll certainly miss Doug Spitler. And we’re excited to see his legacy unfold as Laura Lamb and all of us at ERS create a bright future together in coming years.