Goodbye, Certainly Not Forgotten

Sister Gretchen on a mission trip.

Last week, we said goodbye to Sister Gretchen Kunz, a nun and former President/CEO at St. Joseph, who is retiring to Ohio.  If you don’t know Sister Gretchen, throw out any stereotypes you may have about nuns; this one was both a spitfire and a visionary.  She dramatically affected change in the Brazos Valley.  In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve benefitted directly or indirectly from some of her initiatives.

In 1981, when Sister Gretchen arrived in Texas and to what was then St. Joseph Hospital, she was met with unpaid bills on her desk.  In her first week as administrator, the hospital was unable to meet payroll.  Rather than throw in the towel, this feisty nun rolled up the sleeves on her suit jacket (her order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania,Ohio, had stopped wearing habits by then) and got to business.Not only did she make the hospital solvent, she set out to expand its healing ministry.  Today, several hundred-thousand people in 13 counties have access to rural health clinics and hospitals that she worked with local leaders to establish.  What had been a small, community hospital, became a regional medical hub and health system under her watch.  A system now home to nationally ranked services like stroke care, orthopedic and spine surgery, and neurosurgery.

Sister Gretchen’s legacy is also evident in our community today.  Along with others, she helped found the BCS Prenatal Clinic, Health for All Clinic and Project Unity, all of which provide help to the less fortunate.

Sister Gretchen with city leaders the day Texas Avenue was temporarily renamed for her.

Recognizing a local shortage of healthcare providers, like nurses, radiologists and lab techs, Sister Gretchen worked to create community partnerships that resulted in innovative training at Blinn College and Bryan High School.  In fact, she was on the advisory board that helped create the Bryan campus of Blinn College, and was involved in developing the plan and health programs which created the Hammond Oliver High School for Human Sciences in the Bryan ISD. After six years, Sister Gretchen is leaving her job as Senior Development Officer at the St. Joseph Foundation, the fundraising arm of our non-profit health system.  She’ll be retiring to the community of Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania, Ohio.  The Brazos Valley is losing a dear soul and someone who fought to improve her community.  God Bless, Sister Gretchen.  We’ll miss you and we wish you all the best.

Read what local media and others wrote about her retirement:

http://www.bishopjohnmccarthy.com/2012/05/a-powerhouse-in-bryan-more-nuns/

http://www.theeagle.com/local/Sister-Gretchen-retires

http://www.kbtx.com/news/local/headlines/Longtime_Brazos_Valley_Healthcare_Leader_Retires_151202085.html

http://www.kbtx.com/news/local/headlines/Hospital_Administrator_Retires_After_Quarter_Of_A_Century_Of_Dedication_151022345.html

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