Phil and Nancy Meek are putting down roots in Benzie County - literally. Nine years ago, Nancy purchased a cherry farm south of Elberta where they’ve planted 3,000 new cherry trees.
"Our roots are getting deeper there all the time," said Phil, who will become chair of the Paul Oliver Foundation Board of Trustees in January.
Residents of Greenwich, CT, the Meeks typically spend four months a year at their cottage on Crystal Lake. They will continue to do so, but will relocate each fall to their new Benzie County farmhouse now under construction.
Phil’s interest in local health care services intensified 13 years ago during a middle-of-the night trip to Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room, followed by a transfer to Munson Medical Center.
"My care was handled so well that it confirmed for us that we need Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital here - it increased my interest," he said. After many years of trying, long-time Foundation Board President Chuck King convinced Phil to join the board.
Phil retired 10 years ago as Senior Vice President and President, Publishing Group, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., following a varied, highly distinguished career. He was on the fast track in finance at Ford Motor Company when, at age 32, his career took an unexpected turn. While working "on loan" from Ford as president of the Economic Development Corporation of Greater Detroit, he met people involved in a small broadcasting company,
Capital Cities, who asked him if he’d ever thought about running a newspaper. The idea tapped into a deep vein of interest in journalism he’d held since high school, and led him to become publisher of the Oakland Press in Pontiac during a period of extreme civil unrest.
He later became publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Texas summers caused the Meeks to once more yearn for the shores of Crystal Lake where they had vacationed as a family since 1965. They purchased a cottage on Crystal’s south shore in 1983.
Capital Cities grew, and in 1986 accomplished a major business coup when it purchased the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Phil moved to the New York City area to oversee the diverse publishing group. His long list of affiliations includes being the immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees of Ohio Wesleyan University and a trustee of Guideposts.
Locally, he is on the board of the Crystal Lake and Watershed Association and a member of the Munson Healthcare System Investment Committee. During his 16 years as a newspaper publisher, he participated actively in community affairs. He served for six years on the Pontiac Stadium Authority, which built and operated the Pontiac Silverdome. In both Pontiac and Fort Worth, he was the general campaign manager of the local United Way, and later president. He also was on the United Way board in New York City. In Texas, he was chairman of the North Texas Commission and president of the Texas Daily News-paper Association, which named him Texas Newspaper Leader of the Year
Outgoing Foundation Chair Jon S. Armstrong said the people of Benzie County are extremely fortunate to have someone with Phil’s leadership skills, experience, and interest step forward to lead Paul Oliver Foundation.
"In addition to all of his talents and accomplishments, Phil is simply a great person - people like being with him and will enjoy being on his team," he said.
Armstrong served as Paul Oliver Foundation chair during a significant transition period for the organization. Soon after he assumed office, it was concluded that it would be in the best interest of the independent Foundation and its contributors if it became a subsidiary of Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital.
"Change is always difficult," Jon said. "The transition would have been impossible without the support of the members of board of directors of the Foundation and the cooperation and assistance of many people in the Munson Healthcare System. I am grateful to many for their help and counsel."
"Paul Oliver Foundation is now stronger and has much better resources to move forward," he said. "For me, getting better acquainted with and working toward a common goal with many talented and interesting people has been a rewarding and memorable experience."
As Phil begins his term as chair, he believes maintaining quality health care in Benzie County is dependent on several things: Continued community use and financial support of the facility, and the involvement of Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
"It’s a classic case of how we can never take anything for granted," he said. "If Paul Oliver is well run and has local community support, then it’s a vital part of the Munson Healthcare System and should be able to serve the community for decades to come."