The Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation was pleased to honor Toni Poole as the recipient of this year’s 11th annual John Whitty Award for Excellence. The award recognizes individuals dedicated to improving the health and well-being in our community. Past recipients of this award include Stephanie Kilmer, Dr. James Martin, Joan and Tom Stamper, Joan Verger, Dr. Wayne Murray, Dr. Steven and Eva Shimotakahara, Lindi Quinn, Dr. Oded Shulsinger, Rudy Juul, and John Whitty.
Bay Area Hospital had just opened its doors when Toni and her husband Arthur moved to Coos County in 1975, and an unexpected career change would set her on a path to decades of community service and stewardship at Bay Area Hospital and beyond.
“If it’s a good thing, she’s likely to be involved in it in one way or another,” says John Whitty, who served alongside Toni on the Bay Area Hospital Board of Directors.
Having earned her Master’s degree from Oregon State University, Toni hoped to teach at Southwestern Oregon Community College, but broadened her job search and saw an ad in the paper; Security Bank was looking for a proof operator, and while she had no idea what a proof operator was, she applied.
“I didn’t really lie,” Toni says with a coy smile. “I just didn’t tell them that I had all this college, because I knew if you wrote down that you have a Master’s degree, they wouldn’t have even looked at me. So I wrote down that I had two years of college… which was true.”
In June 2000 Toni graciously agreed to join the Bay Area Hospital Finance Committee. Soon after, a hospital board position opened unexpectedly, and she was appointed to fulfill the rest of the term. Before she knew it, she was running for reelection.
“I don’t remember how many terms I served, but I went through a few elections. My husband has vivid memories of making campaign signs,” she says with a smile.
As a member of the board, she was a part of the team faced with the important task of selecting a new CEO in 2009. They selected Paul Janke, a visionary who would serve the hospital for 10 years, leading the hospital through several expansions and clinical developments. He also saw a philanthropic opportunity for the hospital and jumped on it. A foundation had been chartered when the hospital opened, but the organization had been inactive since its conception. Janke called for the revival of the foundation, and naturally, Toni became a founding member of the Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation Advisory Committee.
When asked what motivated her active life of community service, Toni humbly answers, “I grew up in an era where community service was sort of part of what you did.”
Aside from her work on the community college board, hospital board, hospital finance committee, and community foundation advisory committee, Toni served on the Coos History Museum Board, Coquille Chamber of Commerce, and Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, all while leading a success and vibrant career.
In 2000, Security Bank was sold to Umpqua, and she was one of the few upper tier employees who kept a position under the new ownership. She became regional credit administrator, overseeing the loan portfolio from Newport to Brookings.
Deena Gisholt worked with Toni in various capacities for 20 years and says she learned a lot from Toni.
“She was always fair, very approachable, very creative, and just smart,” Gisholt says. “She’s just always been a great person and very giving of her time.”
In 2004, Toni retired, but continued her many community service obligations.
“She wants the community to do well, and she’s willing to dedicate herself to seeing that it does,” Whitty says.
Her retirement continues to be a balance of service and leisure. She enjoys quilting with the Coos Sand ’n Sea Quilters, exploring the world by train with Art, and serving on the finance committee for the Coos History Museum.
If you have questions or need additional information, contact Barbara Bauder at (541) 269- 8543.