When Stephen Reynolds arrived at Baptist Memorial Health Care as an administrative resident in 1971, the organization comprised two facilities: its original downtown hospital and a nearby rehabilitation facility. As Reynolds retires from Baptist 43 years later, he leaves an organization that has 14 affiliate hospitals and dozens of other entities.
Reynolds has witnessed and played a key role in the explosive growth of a health care system that, today, is the Mid-South’s largest. He was there when Baptist Memphis opened in 1979 and when Baptist Memorial Hospital became the Baptist Memorial Health Care System two years later. Reynolds’ career mirrored the growth of the Baptist system; as more regional hospitals became affiliated with Baptist, Reynolds rose through the ranks of the organization until he reached the top, becoming Baptist’s fourth president and CEO in 1994.
“As governor, I’m very appreciative of what Steve has meant for health care in the entire region,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “Baptist has become a leader, not just in our state but around the country in providing care, and Steve’s leadership has made such a big difference in that. I will always be grateful for your friendship and for your leadership at Baptist.”
Continued growth and a rededication to community service marked Reynolds’ tenure as president and CEO.
“Well, I can remember years ago when we looked into the possibility of adding a hospital in Collierville, Tennessee, and Mr. Reynolds was very instrumental in us making movement in that direction and it was a challenging experience,” said Bob Gordon, former executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Baptist, who retired last year.
During the past 20 years, Baptist Collierville and two other new hospitals opened – Baptist Women’s Hospital and a replacement NEA Baptist Hospital – and new bed towers were added at Baptist Memphis, Baptist Golden Triangle and Baptist DeSoto. Baptist also made significant investments in other facilities, bringing high-level facilities and services to underserved, often rural communities.
Baptist expanded in other ways, as well, to meet community needs outside its hospitals. Around the time Reynolds became president and CEO, the Baptist School of Nursing, which opened in 1912 ‒ the same year as the original Baptist Memorial Hospital ‒ transitioned to a four-year college that awards bachelor’s degrees in nine majors.
In 2009 the Baptist Medical Group was formed to help foster stronger partnerships with area physicians. Today, about 550 providers throughout Baptist’s service area are part of BMG. Baptist opened the Memphis area’s first residential hospice facility and the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief in 2010. The hospice facility was recently renamed the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House in tribute to Reynolds’ career and accomplishments.
The highlight of Baptist’s charitable giving during Reynolds’ presidency was the donation of the Baptist Medical Center building and land to the University of Tennessee and the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
The gift, conservatively valued at $100 million, is the largest in UT’s history and facilitated the creation of the UT-Baptist Research Park. The research park will be the center of Memphis’ biotechnology community and promises to bring economic growth to the city. The Memphis Bioworks Foundation recently unveiled a plaque in honor of the contribution.
Baptist also established itself as Memphis’ largest homeless health care provider. Baptist’s signature community outreach program, the Baptist Operation Outreach health care van for the homeless, began in 2003. A partnership between Baptist and Christ Community Health Services, the van treats the homeless in several locations four days a week. Last fall, Reynolds was on hand to christen a new health care van that will allow Baptist and Christ Community to expand the program, which treats 3,000 patients a year.
In addition, Baptist has donated millions of dollars to dozens of schools, area non-profits and other organizations during Reynolds’ tenure as president. One of those schools, the Harwood Center, is dedicating its 55th Annual Memphis Handicappers Golf Tournament to Reynolds in honor of Baptist’s donation to the organization. Harwood credits Baptist’s donation with allowing the center to
- Increase the number of children served by 91 percent since 2011
- Hire a behavior analyst, seven behavior technicians and a full-time preschool program director
- Open two behavior programs for children with autism
- Increase home-based behavioral services to children with autism
- Offer a school-based program for children with behavioral challenges resulting from autism, making the service available to working families
- Open two off-site preschool classrooms, increasing the number of children served by 28 percent
“In 2010, Harwood Center experienced a significant loss of funding as a result of statewide cuts to the early intervention system for children with disabilities,” said Claire Moss, Harwood Center’s executive director. “Steve Reynolds not only took the time out of his schedule listen to our story, he heard it and understands the impact of prevention and how early identification is directly related to the success of young children, particularly those with special needs. He is a model for servant leadership in our community and should be applauded for his accomplishments and commitment.”
Reynolds has earned local, regional and national accolades for his accomplishments. The Tennessee Hospital Association, the American College of Health Care Executives, Washington University School of Medicine, B’nai B’rith, Arkansas State University, the Arkansas State University School of Business, Arkansas State University’s chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, Rotary International and the Boy Scouts of America have recognized Reynolds for his leadership in the health care industry. He also holds an Honorary Doctorate from Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
“Steve Reynolds is not only recognized here in Memphis, locally, for his tremendous leadership abilities, but nationally,” said Jason Little, who will succeed Reynolds as Baptist’s president and CEO. “I go all around the country and I talk to leaders. I get to serve in an organization that has some of the biggest health care systems in the country…Oftentimes I get the question, ‘What’s going on at Baptist. How would Steve Reynolds do it?’ We’ve been very fortunate to have that kind of expertise here, guiding us in a tremendous way so that we’ve grown to what we are today.”
During the past few weeks, Reynolds has been honored during several celebrations, including the Baptist Family Day on Sunday, May 18. Colleagues and their families enjoyed an afternoon at the Memphis Botanic Garden and had an opportunity to congratulate Reynolds and thank him for his years of service. Little presented Reynolds with a special gift, and Shades of Ebony, a gospel group comprised of current and former Baptist colleagues, uplifted the crowd with three songs. Original member Rose Futch credited Reynolds for making it possible for Shades of Ebony to form in 1986.
As Reynolds concludes his 43-year Baptist career, he leaves an organization that has an annual economic impact of $2.6 billion and provided $229 million in community benefit to the areas it serves in 2012. The Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, Baptist’s fundraising arm, raised more than $100 million and awarded an additional $60 million in grants under Reynolds’ leadership.
As successful as Baptist has been under Reynolds’ watch, many of his colleagues point to his character as his greatest quality.
“Steve is the type of individual that didn’t just preach what he expected of people; he led by example,” said Gordon. “I cannot think of any time in the 35 plus years that I was here when he or other CEOs before him set expectations that they didn’t hold themselves accountable to.”
Greg Duckett, Baptist’s senior vice president and chief corporate counsel, adds, “I never had to worry one day as to what my boss and president and CEO would be doing as it relates to which route should we take. The route for him was always a twofold route. No. 1, what would Christ have you do? And No. 2, when in doubt, always do what you think is the right thing. So that has been his mantra. And that will be part of the legacy that he will leave here at this organization, doing the right thing.”