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LeadingAge transitions but pledges to continue leading

November 4, 2015
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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It’s a time of transition, both for LeadingAge and its members.  

“The very nature of aging is transition,” says Kathryn Roberts, incoming chair of the LeadingAge Board of Directors. “It’s the heart of our mission. Transition becomes us, so let’s get started.”

Roberts was sworn in as the new chair of the LeadingAge Board of Directors at the organization’s annual meeting and expo in Boston. In her inaugural speech, she urged members to meet the changes of the changing industry.


“Meet the senior living market where it is, not where we want it to be. We’re leading the charge to change our communities,” Roberts says. “The ground is shifting beneath us and threatens to make some of our offerings obsolete. If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”

President-elect Katie Sloan Smith took up the charge when she stepped on stage, vowing to pursue LeadingAge’s mission, “with a vengeance. LeadingAge will do as our name promises. We will lead.”

Sloan Smith pledged LeadingAge will lead by growing through advocacy, research and influence.

“We will need more than a handful of brave hearts willing to chart new waters, take a few calculated risks and help make our world a safe, healthy and vibrant place to grow old.”

Sloan Smith thanked outgoing President and CEO Larry Minnix, and size 11 foot, for clearing the waters for her and leaving her size 7 foot with some big literal and metaphorical big shoes to fill.

Minnix gave an emotional farewell speech to the audience that was received with multiple standing ovations. He reflected on his service and laid out his future plans to be called Pop Pop, Sweetie, Hey Daddy and Bubba.

“Thank you. God bless,” he says, adding he'll never be far away. And if anyone wants to see him, they can go get chicken and dumplings Wednesdays for $8.99. “I’m not here for Washington anymore, but I am here to help you.”

LeadingAge presented Minnix with Award of Honor. The organization announced the Leadership Academy Minnix founded would be renamed in his honor and the creation of a Larry Minnix scholarship fund to support future leaders.

Minnix’s immediate family was brought upto the stage, including his granddaughter who wiggled on his lap, to watch a video tribute and listen to poet Tonya Ingram perform a spoken word piece about his service that culminated with the audience holding up pictures of actual people Minnix has touched. The Doo Wop Project was brought in to sing a song by one of his favorite performers, Otis Redding. It was Roberts’ hope that Minnix can enjoy his retirement “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”

Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, was elected to national LeadingAge board of directors. Carol Silver Elliott, president and CEO at Jewish Home Family in New Jersey, was named the national Leading Age Board Secretary.

This year’s crop of LeadingAge award winners includes:


  • Grace McDonald manager of the memory care neighborhood at of Bethesda Meadow in Ellisville, Md., was the recipient of the Joan Anne McHugh Award for Leadership in Long-Term Care Nursing.
  • Sandra Massetti executive vice president and chief healthcare officer of Phoebe Ministries in Allentown, Pa., was the recipient of the Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor Award.
  • Greenspring, an EricksonLiving community in Springfield, Va., was the recipient of the Hobart Jackson Cultural Diversity Award.
  • Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community of West Columbia, S.C., was the recipient of the Innovation in Care and Services Award.
  • ACT on Alzheimer’s of Minnesota was the recipient of the Public Trust Award.
  • Charlie Routh of Friends Homes at Guilford, Greensboro, N.C., was the recipient of the inaugural Older Adult of Distinction Award.
  • Augustana Care, of Minneapolis, was the recipient of the Excellence in Not-for-Profit Leadership Award.
  • SpringPoint Senior Living, of Wall Township, N.J., was the recipient of the Excellence in the Workplace Award.
  • Lorraine Breuer, senior vice president of Nerken Center for Research and Grants at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, Hyde Park, N.Y., was the recipient of the Excellence in Research and Education Award.
  • John Watson, COO of The Cedars in Portland, Maine, was the recipient of the Outstanding Advocacy Award.