Courtesy CAITLIN POND
Ascension St. John
It was with a heavy heart that Ascension St. John announced the passing of Sister M. Therese Gottschalk, SSM. She passed away Feb. 24 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She was 88.
Sister Therese served as a leader at Ascension St. John in Oklahoma and with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother for 38 years. A memorial mass was held in Oshkosh.
In addition, a local remembrance service and Catholic Mass celebrating her life was held in Tulsa.
Sister M. Therese Gottschalk was born in 1931 in Bavaria, Germany, the second of 14 children. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother at the age of 21. She moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and earned a pharmacy degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska in 1960. After graduation, she operated the pharmacy for a new 150-bed hospital in Roswell, New Mexico, for eight years. Sr. Therese left this position to obtain a Master of Science in Hospital Administration from Saint Louis University.
Known for both her commitment to the Mission of Catholiic healthcare and her business acumen, Sr. Therese became an assistant administrator of St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa (later St. John Medical Center) and its School of Nursing in 1970, serving in this role for two years. As part of her duties, she worked with other assistant administrators to operate the hospital and to design a new hospital tower. Sr. Therese returned to Roswell for two years to serve as hospital administrator, and returned to Tulsa after being named St. John’s hospital president in 1974. Upon her return, the hospital underwent a $40 million construction project to build the North Tower, now called the J.A. Chapman Tower. The 603-bed tower was dedicated February 22, 1976. Sr. Therese became chief executive officer of St. John Health System in 1982 and served through 2010.
Sr. Therese was always at the forefront of expanding services to meet the growing needs of the community, especially those living in poverty and most vulnerable. During her career, she supervised the building of the Mary K. Chapman Health Plaza, the Bernsen, Kravis, Holliman and Wheeling buildings, and purchase of the Robert W. Davis Tower in Tulsa. Also during her tenure, St. John Health System expanded to include St. John Sapulpa, Jane Phillips Medical Center, St. John Broken Arrow and St. John Owasso. St. John also opened clinics in Sand Springs, Sapulpa and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and helped create OMNI Medical Group, a primary care physician group now part of Ascension Medical Group St. John. During her tenure, Regional Medical Laboratory was also established.
Thanks in large part to Sr. Therese’s vision, Marian Health System was founded in 1989, loosely combining the healthcare activities of the three Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother provinces: Wisconsin, New Jersey and Oklahoma/Kansas. Sr. Therese served as president and chief executive officer of the Marian Health System from that time until it joined Ascension on April 1, 2013. Sr. Therese then served as senior executive advisor to the president and chief executive officer of Ascension Health and Executive Vice President of Ascension. She also continued to serve on the boards of the former regional systems of Marian Health System: Ministry Health Care, St. John Health System and Via Christi Health. She also served as an inaugural member of the Ascension Wisconsin Board of Directors until June 2019.
Through the course of her faith-filled life of service, Sr. Therese achieved many honors and recognitions. She was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and was recognized with its Regent Award in 1995. She served as president of the Tulsa Hospital Council from 1982-1983, the American Hospital Association Governance Committee, and served on the boards of the Catholic Health Association and the Oklahoma Hospital Association.
In 1984, she served as the Oklahoma Hospital Association Board of Trustees chair. She received the OHA W. Cleveland Rodgers Distinguished Service Award in 1999, was awarded the Association for Women in Communication 2009 Newsmaker Award, was awarded the Award of Merit in 2010 from OHA and held an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Oklahoma. She was inducted into the Tulsa Historical Society’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
On Sept. 25, 2019, Sr. Therese left Oklahoma and Ascension St. John to retire in Oshkosh. The City of Tulsa Mayor, G.T. Bynum, proclaimed that day Sister M. Therese Gottschalk Day for her remarkable service resulting in the legacy of compassionate healthcare for the City of Tulsa, especially for those who are sick, poor and vulnerable.