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Soltis was a pivotal leader for St. Mary's

Dec. 29, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

As many in the Tri-State know, the growth of St. Mary's Medical Center is a remarkable story.

A small group of Pallottine Sisters left Germany for America in 1912, and over the next decade they founded schools and hospitals in Richwood and Buckhannon, W.Va. A few years later, the Sisters turned their attention to Huntington, and in 1924 opened a 35-bed hospital here.

Over the next three decades, the hospital added buildings, a nursing school and hundreds more beds, all still under the direction of the Sisters. But in 1964, the hospital took a step that would lead to new horizons with the hiring of its first lay administrator, Stephen "Steve" J. Soltis.

"He has ability, vision and the kind of faith in the future we are looking for," Reverend Mother M. Christina of the Pallottine Missionary Society said at the time. She could not have been more correct.

Soltis, who died this week at the age of 94, worked with the Sisters and medical staff to develop an ambitious long-range expansion plan. Over his 25-year tenure, much of that plan was accomplished.

Upon his retirement in 1989 and nomination to the St. Mary's Wall of Fame, Soltis was credited with St. Mary's transition from "a modest-sized community hospital into a regional healthcare giant."

That growth, service and economic impact have continued, of course, and today St. Mary's Medical Center is one of the largest health-care facilities in West Virginia -- thanks in no small part to the groundwork laid by Stephen Soltis.

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