As the days grow closer to my retirement from this wonderful foundation, I am constantly reminded of the opportunity given to me almost nine years ago by founding board chair Dr. Harry Jonas. Dr. Jonas now serves on the foundation’s CAC, and he is a member of the Health Forward Search Committee which is in the process of helping the Health Forward Board select the next president /CEO of the foundation.
Dr. Jonas is a community treasure, and he and the founding board appointed by then Attorney General Jay Nixon in 2003 were instrumental in the success of this foundation. Before Health Forward distributed the first dollar to the community, Dr. Jonas insisted that this foundation have an ethics policy that was transparent and fair.
When I asked now Governor Jay Nixon how he came to name each of our original board members, he looked at me and smiled. He said the folks who were advocating the loudest for specific uses of the money were given special consideration because of their passion.
Obviously, without proper leadership, this approach of naming board members could have proven problematic. Mr. Nixon then made a brilliant decision in naming Dr. Jonas as the original chair and Gurnie Gunter as vice chair. These two outstanding leaders were able to help the board understand that it was in their individual best interest to have a strong board that served the entire community — rather than just focusing on advocating for their individual causes.
The original 25 person Health Forward board members were:
Larry Blankinship, James Bower, MD, Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, II, Dan Couch, Senator Phil Curls, Bernie Erdman, Christina Esteban, Mark Flaherty, Ron Goldsmith, Gurnie Gunter, Rev. Dr. Wallace Hartsfield, Mary Lou Jaramillo, Bishop Steve Jones, Harry Jonas, MD, Bridget McCandless, MD, Rod Minkin, Richard Nadeau, Brenda Pelofsky, Karen Pletz, Landon Rowland, David Ross, Terry Thompson, Rita Valenciano, Herman Watson, MD, and Bridgette Williams.
This first board set the standard of excellence for ethics, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, and active involvement, which fortunately has been passed down to the board members who have served in later years.
I want to thank the original Health Forward board members for their courage, flexibility and support for doing the right thing in the best interest of the community.