Dean Builds A Firm Foundation

August 2, 2002
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ZEELAND — The newspaper ad Robert Dean saw last year led not only to an opportunity to run a foundation but to create one.

A veteran of nonprofit administration, Dean saw the position as head of the new foundation that Zeeland Community Hospital was forming as the right opportunity at the right time.

“This was too good to turn down,” said the 47-year-old Dean, who became executive director last December of the new Zeeland Community Hospital Foundation.

Dean, a Grand Rapids resident who previously ran the local Easter Seals chapter, saw the position as the fulfillment of a desire to further his career in the nonprofit arena through work in philanthropy. The match was a good one for him both personally and professionally, he said.

“Philanthropy is really the driving force in making change and making things happen,” he said. “I always watched what kind of things can be created when generous individuals and corporations in the community get involved.

“I’m also a person that likes to make things happen.”

Formed as an arm of the hospital with the intention of eventually incorporating as a separate organization, the foundation works to support Zeeland Community’s mission “to improve the health of the community” by providing the financial backing needed to expand health education, screenings and other outreach initiatives in the community. The plan is to build up an endowment of $15 million to $20 million to provide financial support for services, programs and capital equipment needs that are now subject to yearly fluctuations in the hospital’s finances, as well as to provide better coordination to fund-raising activities on behalf of Zeeland Community Hospital.

Dean came to the foundation after serving for five years as president of Easter Seals Michigan in Grand Rapids, a job that brought him back to his hometown after working several years in Virginia and West Virginia.

Prior to returning to Grand Rapids to be closer to family, Dean served as president of an outpatient rehabilitation center in Richmond, Va., from 1990 to 1995. He previously worked as the administrator for a regional psychiatric center, Weston State Hospital, in Weston, W.Va.

Dean, who also has worked as an elementary school teacher for the Grandville Public Schools and spent a year teaching on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, says the spirit of working in the non-profit sector comes from lessons his parent instilled in him while growing up.

His mother and father were active in the church and community. His father, Ben Dean, did charity work and helped out in fundraising activities for a number of organizations, he said.

“They taught me to give of one’s self and to be involved,” said Dean, the father of two sons ages 10 and 13. “I watched them do what I consider to be good things with their time and life.”

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