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A living testament

By David Rogers. July 23, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — If computer screens could shed the tears of a Zoom virtual meeting’s participants, Blowing Rock and the High Country could well have been the epicenter of “Niagara Falls” on Wednesday.

COVER IMAGE: Colleen Quinn, left, presents Dennis Quinn, center, with the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Wife Marcia Quinn, right, enjoys the moment alongside her husband. Photographic images taken from the Zoom ceremony by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News. Except where noted, the slideshow images are from the archives of ARHS.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System presented its 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award to Blowing Rock’s Dennis Quinn early Wednesday evening. It was one of those bittersweet moments because the nearly three dozen luminaries joining the ceremony virtually all knew that Quinn is nearing the end of his battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer.

Although when diagnosed in early 2019 the attending physicians only gave him roughly six months to live, Quinn has survived for a year and a half since the brain tumor was found.

But this story is not about Quinn’s mortality. Rather, it is about high praise for his leadership, selflessness, and grace in serving the High Country community.

We wouldn’t be where we are today without Dennis’ leadership.

In order, congratulatory remarks for the well deserved recognition were offered by Rob Hudspeth (Senior VP for System Advancement for Appalachian Regional Healthcare), Blowing Rock resident Don Hubble, Dr. Bunky Davant, for ARHS CEO Richard Sparks, and Quinn’s daughter, Colleen Quinn.

In 2001, Quinn joined the board of the Watauga Medical Center Foundation. Six years later, in 2007, the former senior executive of Kimberly-Clark Corp. was a founding member of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation Board. He has served as the ARHS Foundation Board chairman since 2011.

In becoming the latest recipient of ARHS’ “Lifetime Achievement Award,” Quinn is in good company. Past recipients include Paul Broyhill, John Blackburn, Paul O’Connell, Martha Guy, Gordon and Mary Cain, Kenneth Wilcox, Spencer Robbins, and Hugh Fields, among others. The recognition is presented to individuals who have made a significant impact and contribution to healthcare in the High Country. Normally, it is awarded each year at the Foundation’s Pinnacle Society Dinner.

Dennis is a person of impeccable character.

Hudspeth acknowledged that he and Quinn haven’t always agreed on things, “…but Dennis always made his points with carefully chosen words and he was never offensive. He has a subtle way of letting you know of his displeasure and at the same time offering his evaluation from a different and deeper perspective…

From left to right, BRCC golf pro Wayne Smith with members Clyde Williams, Don Hubble, Dennis Quinn and Don Caine. Photographic image courtesy of Loretta Hubble, published previously in Blowing Rock News.

“…Over Dennis’ time with Foundation board,” Hudspeth noted, “he has helped raise more than $66 million for the buildings and programs of Appalachian Regional Healthcare and Watauga Medical Center…We wouldn’t be where we are today without Dennis’ leadership.”

As a longtime friend, Hubble added some more personal observations about Quinn, with whom he has played many rounds of golf, traveled with their wives to Portugal and the Baltic Sea countries, and shared social moments involving tennis, bridge — and glasses of wine.

Apparently he has maintained many contacts with Kimberly Clark and has used them quite well. If anybody has seen Dennis’ basement, then you know where all of the toilet paper in Watauga County has gone!

“As to the measure of the man,” Hubble told the gathered audience on their computer screens and smartphones, “I can attest that Dennis is a person of impeccable character.”

Dr. Bunky Davant is also a longtime close friend of Quinn, who served as a senior executive with Kimberly Clark Corporation, a publicly traded U.S. company (NYSE: KMB). Davant landed the quip of the day when he told the group, “Don (Hubble) mentioned that Dennis retired from Kimberly Clark at age 55. Apparently he has maintained many contacts with the company and has used them quite well. If anybody has seen Dennis’ basement, then you know where all of the toilet paper in Watauga County has gone!

“Dennis is deserving of EVERYTHING the other speakers have said about his character. His willingness, how easy he is to work with…is absolutely correct…He has contributed a lot in terms of leadership, but he and his wife have also contributed a lot (financially).”

Former ARHS CEO Richard Sparks is the architect of the healthcare system’s “continuum of care” in the High Country, and has had numerous opportunities to interact with Quinn.

He was the right person at the right time.

When he first met Quinn, Sparks recalled, “Dennis said, ‘I want to help.’ Here’s this distinguished-looking man with a gentleman’s manner wanting to join our team. I immediately thought, ‘This is going to be good.'”

Sparks went on to say that Quinn was the “perfect person” to provide leadership for the healthcare system’s professional development. “He was the right person at the right time,” Sparks observed.

Dennis Quinn, left, holds court with Marty (center) and Ted Couch at a special ARHS Foundation event.

Sparks went on to share the since retiring from ARHS a few years ago, he has been teaching a class on leadership and ethics at Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business. “In class,” noted Sparks, “we spend a good deal of discussion time on the concept of real leaders, meaningful leaders, and essential leaders. These people don’t seek power. They don’t seek control or monetary gain. These individuals say, ‘I can help you go to a higher level. I can help elevate your organization. I can take you to greater heights.’ Dennis Quinn was such a leader for us…The result of that is the people who live, work, and visit this region now enjoy a better quality of life.”

Daughter Colleen Quinn opened her remarks by saying, “You hear what these other guys say what Dennis Quinn has done and been in their eyes for the community, but I want to share a few words about the man that my family knows.”

She started by recalling what her father had said a little while after he retired. “I am probably busier in retirement than when I was working,” she said. “That is probably the truth.” She added that while they thought he might take on a second career and play a lot more golf, the family members were only partly right. “He got involved in a lot community work…yes, he has played a lot of golf and bridge and has always been a competitor — and has ratcheted up those skills over the years.

“But giving back to the community is what the family saw more than anything.”




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