President and Chief Executive Officer, WesleyLife
Rob Kretzinger was named president and CEO of WesleyLife, Inc., in 2003, after having served as chief operating officer from 1996 until that year. Since his installation as CEO, Kretzinger has grown the Iowa-based nonprofit from a provider of senior housing to 1,000 older adults to one that provides housing, care and services to more than 10,000 individuals through WesleyLife’s integrated and comprehensive health and wellness networks.
Positioned for continued growth and leadership, WesleyLife is Iowa’s most comprehensive senior living provider. The organization is pleased to have been named to the Top 150 Workplaces in Iowa by the Des Moines Register, and its seven Communities for Healthy Living, in cities ranging from the western to the eastern parts of the state, have been designated Blue Zones worksites, offering a well-being focus that encourages older adults to live healthier, more meaningful lives.
Kretzinger is a sought-after speaker and mentor in the senior housing, care and services industry. He earned a bachelor of science in psychology and gerontology from Iowa State University and a master’s in healthcare administration from the University of North Texas. He is actively involved in LeadingAge, the national membership organization for the United States’ 6,000 nonprofit aging services providers, at the state and national levels.
A native of Jefferson, Iowa, Rob and his wife, Glenda, have three grown children and live in the Des Moines area.
Read the Transcript of Rob's Devotional:
Good morning. My name is Rob Kretzinger, and I am the President and CEO of WesleyLife. It’s my great honor and privilege to be the first one to kick off the annual celebration that focuses on our heritage in what we’ve come to know as WesleyLife Week. There’s something just extremely powerful knowing that across the state there are literally thousands of folks: team members, residents, donors, and family members who are taking the time to just slow down, reflect, and appreciate the heritage that we call WesleyLife. It’s very powerful.
I thought, as I was asked to be the first one to kick this off, that the most appropriate location to do this is where it began seventy years ago on this day, in this house called the Chamberlain Home, at 3520 Grand Avenue. This is where Wesley Acres began. For someone who’s been here for twenty of those seventy years and whose office was originally in this house just upstairs, actually, in one of the bedrooms that was originally where one of the folks moved in. This is a very powerful place. This house, to me, represents the foundation for this organization. Over the years I’ve really enjoyed all of the challenging times and decisions we’ve had to make, and the celebrations just to be anchored in this home. What faith, what risk, and what perseverance the United Methodist Conference had and took at that time. In the 1947 to take $50,000, which was an incredible amount of money at that time, to buy this home and 15 acres to start this ministry. When this ministry began, I can’t imagine that they said this will continue for 10 years, or 20 years, or 70 or 100; I think they believed, and we still believe today, today that God has no end to this ministry or to this mission. It goes on forever. That’s important for us all to stop and think about in this world where there are start-ups and dot coms, and people that are entering into the senior living space with the soul desire to eventually sell or to move on. I’m proud of the fact that this ministry has been around for seven decades.
I thought about heritage and foundation, and you think about this old home, which is on the National Historical Registry and was built in 1902, and the deep foundation it has. They don’t build homes like this anymore. It would be very hard to replicate such a beautiful home where this ministry began. I think about how deep those foundations go, and it reminded me, in anticipation of this, of a spiritual retreat that I took many years ago before I joined Wesley. The other organization that I worked for asked that we take spiritual retreats every few years. We were at the Benedictine Monastery in St. Paul, and I had the opportunity to meet a couple of sisters that talked about fire starters and well diggers in reference to the heritage of the church and heritage to the ministries. I found that interesting, and I didn’t know what they meant, but it references Deuteronomy Chapter 6, and I have it here. It is the scriptural theme for WesleyLife Week, and it says: We build on foundations we did not lay, we warm ourselves at fires we did not light, we sit in the shade of trees we did not plant, we drink from wells we did not dig, we profit from persons we did not know, we are ever bound in relationship. To me, well diggers, fire starters, the people that went before us – I am just so grateful today for those folks. Had they not gone before us and laid the foundation, of caring, spirit, community, and excellence, many of us wouldn’t be here. I’m really pleased to take time to share with you a couple people that I just dearly love, who were here during the early years. Nondas Beswick and Marie Mailif were some of those early well diggers, if you will, that built this foundation we call WesleyLife. I had the opportunity recently to interview them and ask them some questions that I thought you might find interesting, so we are going to do that now. Thank You.
Rob: When did you work at Wesley Acres and what was your role at that time?
Nondas: The previous director of nursing, Ruth, called me. We had worked together at Blank. Ruth said to me, “I need a nurse. The nurse you are going to replace is really ill and I need someone right away.” I said, “Ruth, I will help you for 3 days, but no longer.” I stayed for 16 or 18 years.
Rob: Wow. What are some of your favorite memories of those times?
Nondas: Meeting the wonderful residents, and we also had wonderful staff. Always. The nurses’ aides, the department heads – It was just like a family.
Rob: Marie, when did you work here and what was your role?
Marie: It was interesting. My husband was the conference leader at the United Methodist church, so they asked him to be on the Resident Life Committee here. So, that’s when I learned more about Wesley Acres. Reverend Tharp, who was the administrator here before me, attended our church at Valley in West Des Moines. He said his secretary was going on Christmas vacation, and asked if I would come and substitute during that time. I said yes, and then I went out and got my administrator license in Ankeny. It was very interesting. I learned that most of the nursing homes in Iowa were not very good. The professor told me that. I said, “Well I know an exception.” I said that my father was in the nursing home in Humboldt. He asked if it was it the assisted nursing home, and I said yes. He said that was the exception.
Rob: So you sort of by happenstance, or resistance, came to Wesley Acres, but what were some of your greatest accomplishments that you were proud of during that time as you were serving?
Marie: We had been told that there were three homes at that time. We had been asked to make an organizational chart where you see the administrator (at top) and other positions below them. I thought of that and said- that’s not my style. I reversed it, and I started at the top with nursing assistants, dietary assistants, housekeeping assistants, maintenance assistants, and so forth, and came down where at the bottom it said administrator.
Rob: That’s great.
Marie: Well, I took it to our meeting and the fellow said, “Marie that’s not an organizational chart.” I said, “That is the way I manage.” I explained that if you have someone in the health center that wants to have a bath or wants something, they call the nursing assistant who does it, not the director of nursing and not the administrator. That was my philosophy.
Rob: That’s terrific. So, there are probably a few thousand team members watching this right now. What advice do you have for them as we kick off WesleyLife Week when they think about their role and their career at WesleyLife?
Nondas: They have much to give. To Love.
Marie: And to listen to the residents.
Rob: Well, I want to thank you both for the work you did before all of us. I’ve been hearing about Marie and Nondas for years. About how you set the tone and you modeled the way. You sort of set this in motion, and I want to say to all of our WesleyLife team members thank you and don’t ever underestimate the power and impact that you’re having today, but also in the future. We’re thankful for these ladies for going ahead of us in setting the stage and doing all the caring and all the thoughtful work. Know that you’re doing that as well, and I thank you for that. Let’s have a great celebration this week as we celebrate our 70 years as a ministry.