Paul Leaves Legacy as Servant Leader

Led by the Rev. Dr. Jerry Paul, the Deaconess Foundation was one of the first organizations to support Back Bay Mission when it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Although the St. Louis organization primarily assists children, Paul knew that the Biloxi, Mississippi-based CHHSM ministry, which serves the homeless, needed assistance to rebuild.

“Our hope is that the Deaconess Foundation gift may spur other individuals and churches to consider making donations to Back Bay Mission,” Paul wrote in a news release. “As national organizations complete their initial work and move on, the Mission will remain in the community for the long haul of responding to residents and helping them to find jobs, housing, health care, and re-establish the rhythm of life.”

Deaconess’ $250,000 donation to Back Bay Mission was just one example of Paul’s boundless compassion and generosity.

A true leader across St. Louis and beyond, Paul died on May 20 at his home in O’Fallon, Illinois. He was 65.

An ordained UCC minister, Paul served as a hospital executive at Deaconess Health System in St. Louis after earning his Master of Divinity from Eden Seminary in 1974 and a master’s in health care administration from Washington University School of Medicine in 1983.

In the late 1990s, he oversaw the merger and eventual sale and conversion of Deaconess from a hospital into a grant-making foundation, for which he served as president and CEO until he retired in 2012.

Whether creating grants for other nonprofits to enhance life for children or serving on countless boards, Paul lived a life of servant leadership, says Dr. Nesa Joseph, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis.

“He had exceptionally good insights into people and how to best develop their skills,” Joseph says. “There are lots of nonprofits and foundations in St. Louis, and Jerry was the person who reached out, coordinated and collaborated so that efforts weren’t duplicated.”

Paul was extremely generous with his time and money, Joseph says. On mission trips abroad, he packed extra laptops to give away. Closer to home, he provided financial support for high school students with limited means.

While his most significant public accomplishment was the conversion of the Deaconess Health System into the Deaconess Foundation, his ability to mentor and develop young leaders will impact generations, says the Rev. Bryan Sickbert, CHHSM’s former president and CEO.

“Jerry’s legacy will be more profoundly, if less publicly, realized in the work of the many people he supported in their development as leaders,” Sickbert says. “Nothing seemed to excite him more than discovering a bright young person working in the trenches of the war on poverty and injustice and doing whatever he could to encourage and develop their work.”

He was an extraordinary leader and wonderful friend, Joseph says. “He touched countless lives and really made a difference.”

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