Big industry awards ceremony draws former NIC board chairs and leaders.
Recognized as the entrepreneurial thought leader who created a forum for investors in senior housing and care, and revolutionized the use of data in the sector, Robert G. Kramer was honored with the 2023 Career Achievement Award at the inaugural McKnight’s Pinnacle Awards ceremony March 7 in Chicago. Awards went to 30 providers and long-time leaders in the senior living, skilled nursing and home care sectors.
“We have the greatest impact on our field by investing in people.”
“For more than 35 years, Bob has been a transformational figure in the senior housing and care field,” McKnight’s Vice President and Editorial Director John O’Connor said.
Kramer accepted the award to a standing ovation giving credit to those whose shoulders he stood on to achieve success, while emphasizing the importance for today’s leaders to encourage and mentor young leaders. “We have the greatest impact on our field by investing in people,” said Kramer.
The new Pinnacle awards program was launched to honor those who have had a remarkable influence over the industry, played key roles as change-makers or inspired others with their leadership approach. NIC Board Member Lynne Katzmann, founder and CEO of Juniper Communities, received the Pinnacle Thought Leader Award and NIC Operator Advisory Board member Mary Leary of Mather received the Pinnacle Agent of Change Award.
Kramer is co-founder, past president and CEO and current strategic advisor to the National Investment Center for Senior Housing & Care (NIC), as well as Founder & Fellow at Nexus Insights, a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing, community and healthcare (http: //www.nexusinsights.net/).
More than 200 aging services professionals, business partners, and supporters attended the dinner and awards ceremony. Kramer was accompanied by members of NIC’s current and past volunteer executive leadership teams and current NIC president and CEO Ray Braun.
Former NIC board chairs in attendance included John Moore, Atria Senior Living; Brad Razook, CS Capital Advisors; Kevin McMeen, MidCap Financial; Thilo Best, Bayshore Retirement Living; and Randy Richardson, former president of Vi.
Also in attendance was NIC Vice Chair Susan Barlow, Blue Moon Capital Partners; Fee Stubblefield, The Springs Living, and NIC Chair of the Operator Advisory Board; and Kari Onweller, Invesque, and Chair of the NIC Future Leaders Council.
Ceremony emcee and Long-Term Care News Executive Editor Jim Berklan said that Kramer had blazed the way and made and raised the bar for the profession. Berklan read a testimonial from Arnie Whitman, a former NIC Board Chair who was unable to attend the event. Whitman noted that Kramer was, “The inspiration that created this industry.” Vi’s Richardson welcomed Kramer to the stage to receive the award to several minutes of applause.
In his remarks, Kramer emphasized that all the award winners were there because they were encouraged and mentored by others. “We didn’t just materialize and become a leader out of nowhere,” he said. “We stood on people’s shoulders who invested in us.”
Kramer said his father taught him how to think creatively and constructively. Many others helped him along the way. As a freshman in the Maryland legislature in 1983, then House Speaker Ben Cardin took a chance on Kramer and asked him to be the house representative on the committee to rewrite CCRC regulations for the state. “I didn’t know what a CCRC was,” said Kramer. “But that was how I got my start in the industry 40 years ago.”
Kramer thanked the volunteer executive leadership that has made NIC so successful. “Each has impacted me and made me a better person,” he said. Kramer encouraged all the honorees, and those who care passionately about improving the lives of older adults and changing the expectations of and the lived experience of aging, to thank the people on whose shoulders they stand. He added that everyone in the room should make sure at least 10 people stand on their shoulders as the industry grows.
“That means mentoring,” said Kramer. “We are about people and investing in people. Be conscious of who stands on your shoulders so they will be here in future years.”
A Career of Supporting Future Leaders
Kramer himself has a long history of mentoring and supporting the development of the next generation of senior housing leaders. He has backed the growth of university and college senior living programs and scholarships.
Under Kramer’s leadership, NIC has helped to fund two college scholarships to raise the profile of the industry and to educate new leaders. The Anthony J. Mullen Scholarship and William E. Colson Scholarship—named in honor of industry trailblazers—are awarded to students at the Erickson School of Aging Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).
In a previous interview, Kramer said, “The industry needs to attract the best and the brightest. Scholarships will help meet senior living’s huge leadership and workforce demands.”
Kramer added that the professional staff at NIC and its volunteer leaders have donated many hours of their time to teach classes and speak at various schools about the senior housing and care industry. They have also helped to develop curriculums to spotlight the field’s opportunities as the older population continues to grow.
Thanks to the work of industry executives, college programs and classes in senior living are available at the Erickson School of Aging Studies and a number of other schools. These schools include the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Boston University; Cornell University; the University of Southern California and Washington State University.
NIC’s board members and members of the Future Leaders Council are now targeting top graduate schools to expand senior living programming options as well as supporting broader industry initiatives like the Vision Centre. “Our goal is to raise the profile of senior living and attract more students to the sector,” said Kramer.
The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.
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