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Q & A with Bob Zentz, President & CEO of Fellowship Community
Bob is the chief executive for the continuing care retirement community Fellowship Community in Whitehall. Despite being a resident at the community, on the doorstep of his 80th birthday and beating cancer for the fourth time (he just had 35% of his liver removed), his golden years are jammed with work, volunteer activities and time with family.
In addition to being the President & CEO of Fellowship, he is the Chairman of Board at Sacred Heart Hospital and is on the boards for Bright Hope Pregnancy Centers, Cetronia Ambulance, Whitehall Township Planning Commission and is the Past Board President of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce. He also takes continuing education credits to maintain his licenses as a Registered Nurse and Nursing Home Administrator.
What was your first job?
I worked from an early age. I grew up in Buffalo, New York. My grandparents had a farm, and I worked there on weekends and around holidays. In 1955, I graduated high school and worked at a Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, NY. My father worked there and helped me get a job. One day I was standing outside with the guys and all of a sudden they backed away from me, and I feel a trickle on my helmet, it was the crane operator peeing on me for as an initiation for new guys. I was so mad that I left, much to the dismay of my father at that time. I was going to be married shortly so I needed a job immediately and took what I could get. I found a position as an orderly at a hospital.
What has made you successful?
Whenever there was an opportunity to do something interesting or fun, I would jump at it. When I was at the hospital in upstate New York there was man there in the psyche ward who had numerous legal issues. He was from New Zealand and they finally decided to deport him. In order to do so they asked for a medical escort to go with the U.S. agents flying him back home so I volunteered. I ended up being fully compensated for my time and getting an all expenses paid trip for nine days to New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, and San Francisco.
How did you find your way to Allentown?
I always enjoyed meeting people and doing new things so I sought opportunities for education, moved up through the ranks at area hospitals until settling at Sacred Heart in Allentown in 1970. At Sacred Heart I worked in administration, and I was the only one without a graduate degree. One day in conversation with my peers I said that I hoped to get a graduate degree at some point and a few days later the nuns, who had overheard the conversation, approached me. They offered to pay my salary and send me for graduate work at Notre Dame University. I spent three summers in South Bend, Indiana and finally achieved a Master of Science and Administration. My wife supported me and never once complained, and we had three children at that point. Now, we’ve been married for 60 years, and have 7 children and 15 grandkids.
What do you find most fulfilling at this point in your life?
I feel fortunate to have been able to retire in 1995 from Sacred Heart and then start working at Fellowship in a similar but different health care environment. I have enjoyed leading the campus through various phases of new construction and building a great team here. Fellowship has achieved the title as top workplace in the industry for 5 years straight years, and a 5 Stars Rating (the top level) for 5 years from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid. Also we have a strong spiritual roots with tow full-time chaplains and two part-time chaplains, multiple Bible studies and other small groups and even a resident church. Personally, I am fulfilled at seeing my grandchildren as they become successful and reach milestones in their own lives.
How do you stay young?
Working keeps me young, plus I am very goal oriented. Many ask me when will I retire, and I tell them that after I achieve my goals. The list is about 80 goals long. I do not see my role here as a job but a ministry.
What would you like your legacy to be?
We have built a great team at Fellowship, a great organizational structure and a culture of excellence. We also have a strong spiritual emphasis; I want the core values at Fellowship to carry on in service to the Lord.
Photo: Bob Zentz, President/CEO of Fellowship Community (standing) talks with residents (L-R) Gordon Baker, Bill Meckes, Lee and George Wagner