A prominent businessperson in the health care arena and community leader has stepped down from his role leading an organization that has provided continuing care retirement services for 30 years.
Robert Zentz, 81, president and CEO of Fellowship Community in Whitehall Township, is retiring from his post after serving in his position for more than 22 years.
“This happened very suddenly within the last week,” Zentz said. “I’m having a lot of complications. This will be my fifth time with cancer. We have a succession plan; the board will be making a decision.”
The board of Fellowship Community will announce the new president and CEO on July 26, Zentz said.
The health care campus Zentz has led since 1996 provides Christ-centered caring for seniors and includes independent living and townhouses for residents, along with services for personal care, nursing care and memory care. His staff includes about 360 people, plus about 80-90 Sodexo employees for its dining services.
Zentz said he and his wife of 62 years, Marilynn, have to go back and forth to doctors regarding health issues, and Zentz said he soon plans to be undergoing palliative care.
He served on many boards while also leading Fellowship Community: vice chairperson of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart board of trustees, a member of the Whitehall Township Planning Commission and past president of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations.
The health conditions prompted Zentz to resign from all organizations, too.
IN THE BUSINESS
Before joining Fellowship Community, Zentz had one day of retirement after serving 25 years as vice president of nursing with Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown. Prior to joining Sacred Heart, he had many management positions with hospitals throughout New Jersey.
“I went into health care way back in 1956,” Zentz said. “I love people, that’s my main motivation.”
Zentz uses the community room at Fellowship Community to host many events and meetings, and he said people always ask him how he trains his employees, since they are always smiling and saying hello.
“That comes from the top down,” Zentz said, noting that he is always taking time to say hello and talk to people.
When Zentz joined Fellowship Community, one focus was creating a culture change, which he said allowed the organization to accomplish a lot, including becoming a prominent name in the community.
Larry Wiersch, CEO of Cetronia Ambulance Corps in South Whitehall Township, said he has known Zentz for more than 20 years and described him as one of the most influential people he has met.
“He is really the keystone to helping Fellowship’s continued success,” Wiersch said, describing Zentz as a very compassionate person engaged with civic and community groups.
“From a personal perspective, he’s probably one of the most important mentors that I’ve had here at the ambulance corps,” Wiersch said.
“He helps you think of things from a different perspective. He helps you accomplish goals.”
CARE FOR THE COMMUNITY
Wiersch worked with Zentz as member of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and Whitehall Community Foundation. Zentz also served on the board of trustees for Cetronia Ambulance Corps.
“He truly is an incredible man; certainly he has a wealth of expertise,” Wiersch said, noting Zentz is a deeply religious person. “He has a genuine caring for the community and fellow human beings.
“I think his personality and his business sense lead to all these things that make him a great person.”
GETTING THINGS DONE
Wiersch said Zentz also helped Cetronia Ambulance Corps develop its strategic plan many years ago and helped the organization learn the importance of it.
Ultimately, this plan led to the development of Cetronia Ambulance’s new headquarters, which opened several years ago.
“One of his favorite sayings is, ‘bulldozers move mountains,’ ” Wiersch said. “He likes to get things done.
“Ideas and intentions don’t move mountains, bulldozers do.”
Zentz said he and his wife live on the Fellowship campus, so he will remain involved, but he plans to be home more with his wife. They look out for each other, he said, and they have seven children and 15 grandchildren who will be helping them.
Zentz said he particularly enjoys developing people and watching their success.
He also established the presidential scholarship fund at Fellowship Community to help advance the education of employees. Under his direction, Fellowship Community provided more than $3.5 million in charitable care.
“In my life, it’s having the privilege to work with people and help people in any way I can. … Watching them develop. … Sharing what knowledge I’ve learned over the years and watching people get good care.”