Since joining Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in 1989, Ray Mishler has been a “first-call kind of guy” for Bill Achenbach, the first chair of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation Board. With a strong working knowledge of operations throughout the entire organization, Mishler has become one of the first people Achenbach turns to for information or guidance on just about any hospital-related concern.
“Ray knows all about the nuts and bolts of what makes the hospital work,” says Achenbach, who has volunteered on numerous Sentara Martha Jefferson committees and boards for the last 27 years, including serving as chair of the Hospital and Health Services boards.
“Development was always his bailiwick, but a good development director has to understand the workings of the entire institution, from the bricks and mortar and the glamorous stuff in the surgical suites to the cafeteria workers and the nurses on the night shift. Ray knows the hospital—and the people in it—extremely well.”
Described as cheerful and optimistic, with a tendency to whistle as he strolls the hospital halls on the way to a meeting, Mishler retires on March 31, leaving behind a legacy of extraordinary accomplishments that will positively impact the hospital for years to come.
An Era of Growth
When Mishler joined Sentara Martha Jefferson as vice president for development, he hit the ground running. Tapping into the energy and enthusiasm of hospital leaders and volunteers who envisioned a significant expansion of services, Mishler guided the launch of a $5 million capital campaign to build the Cardwell Center, the hospital’s first dedicated outpatient center, which opened in 1992. That same year, the Cancer Care Center was created with $2 million in community support.
Mishler’s philanthropic leadership has been an essential element of numerous milestones over the last 30 years, including construction of the new Martha Jefferson Hospital on Pantops Mountain; establishment of the Haden Nursing Institute, a nationally recognized model that supports nursing education and professional development; and raising $3.5 million annually for cancer care, palliative care and many other patient care programs.
“Ray has strengthened Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital through his extraordinary abilities to create and nurture relationships in our community,” says Sentara Martha Jefferson President Jonathan Davis. “His character is built around servant leadership in our community and through the Foundation, supporting some of the most significant and transformational successes in Sentara Martha Jefferson’s history. Ray has made the hospital and our community stronger. He is genuinely proud of the work we do at the hospital, believes in our cause passionately, and is humble and trustworthy in his stewardship of gifts.”
The Path to Development
Mishler came to Charlottesville in 1977 after graduating from Windham College in Putney, Vt. After working for the United Way and Offender Aid and Restoration—where he met his wife, Pat Smith—Mishler served as executive director of the Central Virginia Chapter of the American Red Cross and director for development at UVA Children’s Medical Center.
Upon his arrival at Sentara Martha Jefferson, Mishler joined a dedicated group of volunteer leaders working to establish a professional and sustainable fundraising program to support the hospital’s commitment to delivering the highest level of care. Their efforts ultimately led to the creation of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation in 2002.
“Martha Jefferson’s Caring Tradition was as strong then as it is now, serving as a ‘guiding star’ for how we were to build and grow in service to the community,” says Mishler, whose two adult children, Evan and Erin, were born at the downtown Martha Jefferson location. “Our generous community of donors saw that as well and helped to make these goals a reality. There were then—and still are—a myriad of places where these people could invest their philanthropic resources, but they have a special connection with what we do at Sentara Martha Jefferson to support our staff, help grow our capabilities, and tenderly and thoughtfully provide comfort and aid our patients and their families.”
Under Mishler’s leadership, Sentara Martha Jefferson has established services and programs that go beyond the basics of quality hospital care. For example, the Palliative Care Medicine Program, funded almost entirely through philanthropy, improves quality of life for patients with serious or complex illnesses, providing guidance to help them and their loved ones make critical healthcare decisions. The High-Risk Breast Cancer Program empowers patients by helping them manage their risk of developing breast cancer, and the Cancer Survivorship Program guides patients who have ended treatment with a personalized care plan that includes ongoing monitoring and preventive measures. Each year, the Foundation raises approximately $200,000 to support women’s health services, through Women’s Committee events like the In The Pink Tennis Tournament and Martha’s Market.
“Ray has always been remarkably prepared for and highly engaged in all tasks, routine or great,” says former Sentara Martha Jefferson President Jim Haden. “He has innumerable positive characteristics, but his goodwill, sincerity and follow-through made so much of what he did successful. He played a crucial role in the construction of the new Martha Jefferson Hospital at Pantops, for example. There were so many people involved in various aspects of the capital campaign for that project, but Ray’s leadership—particularly in guiding Foundation board members and other community leaders through the envisioning sessions for capital campaign planning and execution—was truly instrumental in the successful realization of that dream.”
Skelly Comes Home
As Mishler steps down from his position, Kimberly Skelly moves into the role of executive director of the Foundation. Skelly brings to Sentara Martha Jefferson more than 20 years of fundraising experience, serving most recently as chief development officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While at the National Trust, headquartered in Washington, D.C., she directed the $200 million Campaign for America’s National Treasures, the largest campaign in the organization’s history. Under her leadership, the campaign significantly exceeded its goal, with gifts totaling $300 million.
Since joining the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation in January, Skelly has immersed herself in learning about the work of the hospital, meeting donors and volunteers, and envisioning how the Foundation can have the greatest community impact in the years ahead.
“I’m focused on advancing the Foundation’s philanthropic priorities, and on finding new ways to inspire community members to be part of the hospital—not only when in need, but also in times of health and wellness,” Skelly says. “I believe the Foundation can play a role in promoting these values and bringing people together to find spiritual strength and physical renewal.”
A Georgia native and graduate of Mary Baldwin College, Skelly also has led development efforts for local organizations such as James Madison’s Montpelier (a Historic Site of the National Trust), the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Elk Hill Farm Inc.
For Skelly, who lived in Somerset from 2003 to 2016, joining the Foundation team feels like a homecoming. Her two children, Stokes and Compton, were born at Sentara Martha Jefferson, and she and her husband, Don, developed many friendships during their years in the area. She also has known Mishler for many years, having served with him on the Charlottesville Area Planned Giving Council.
“Ray has been such an important part of the hospital and of the community,” Skelly says. “I’m very honored to be succeeding him as head of the Foundation and building on his accomplishments. I’m pleased to return to this community I love, and I’m committed to the Foundation’s promise that every dollar we raise stays in Charlottesville to positively impact the lives of people in our community.”