Q & A with Campaign Co-Chairs: Success is the Only Option

The co-chairs of the Power of Partnership Campaign aim high.


The Power of Partnership Campaign—launched to raise $150 million for Providence Saint John’s Health Center and its affiliate institutions—is co-chaired by two dynamic women from the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation: Mary Flaherty and Gretchen Willison.

Flaherty has chaired the board of directors of Providence Saint John’s Health Center and currently chairs the foundation board. Willison has served as a trustee of the foundation board since 2003. Both women have extensive backgrounds in civic leadership in support of a variety of social, religious, health and educational entities.

Willison led a campaign that raised $220 million for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and is the recipient of the 2017 Cardinal’s Award for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Flaherty’s family has been involved with Saint John’s for more than 40 years. Her father, Jim Hesburgh, is a trustee emeritus and former chair of the foundation. Flaherty has supported several educational institutions around Los Angeles.

We asked the co-chairs to describe the Power of Partnership Campaign:

Why is the campaign called Power of Partnership?

Mary Flaherty: We recognized that for the health center and its affiliate institutions to reach a potential beyond what we can even imagine today, we need to have a full partnership between the community friends and advocates, trustees, board members, physicians, researchers, grateful patients, nurses, support staff and administration in raising the funds necessary to do so.

Gretchen Willison: The word “partnership” also describes the collegial atmosphere of Saint John’s where collaboration across disciplines is the norm in providing the best care to our patients. A defined advantage our physicians have is that they can take research and, when appropriate, apply it to patient care without the layers of bureaucracy that a university hospital has. We have a community hospital with university-level care. When we embrace and depend on and advocate for our partnerships, we are a stronger institution.

Why is now the right time to launch a major fundraising campaign?

MF: We are in an exponential growth phase in all areas of the health center. We have recruited excellent physicians and researchers over the past several years who are making incredible advances in their fields. We need to act now to maintain this momentum. Because we’re smaller than some of the other medical institutions in our area, we’re able to achieve our aspirations in a more efficient and timely manner.

GW: Our new chief executive, Michael Ricks, possesses the vision and tenacious energy to transform this campus, and we need to make sure he has all the support he needs to make our aspirations a reality.

Who is the campaign aimed at?

GW: We’re trying to more than double what we have been raising the past few years. This is a comprehensive campaign aimed at the whole community. Our trustees, board members, physicians, caregivers, researchers, administration, nurses, grateful patients, foundations and friends in the community who value excellent health care are supporting this effort. Every gift matters. Providence Health System will contribute up to $30 million in increasing matching percentages as our total climbs.

Why do you anticipate the campaign will be successful?

MF: We are blessed with an incredible fundraising team at our foundation. Each individual is committed to achieving our goals.

GW: The campaign has been in silent phase for 12 months, and we’ve already raised $105 million. We planned it for success, and we are working with all our partners to make sure we succeed.

Why should the Westside community care about this campaign?

MF: This funding will raise the bar of excellence in health care in our community. The community and well beyond will benefit from the advances in research in cancers and brain health, while having personalized, superb treatment at the patient level in all areas—and especially in cardiac care, women’s health and orthopedics.

GW: Saint John’s is integral to the fabric of the Westside community. We’re here to serve the people of this community. It’s our legacy and our goal to make sure we provide excellent care to the community we serve.

What is satisfying about your work as co-chairs of this campaign?

MF: I find it satisfying and exciting because on a daily basis my interaction with donors and doctors reminds me that I am a part of an incredible institution with a vision for the future in health care and research.

GW: It’s satisfying to be able to give our caregivers the tools with which to provide excellent care and conduct their ongoing research.