Valley losing vocal advocate for change

Michael T. Rowan's departure from his position as president and chief executive officer of Humility of Mary Health Partners will certainly be felt by those Mahoning Valley residents who have been emboldened by his willingness to comment publicly on the problems that have beset this region, and his commitment to making HMHP an active partner in the redevelopment effort. Even though Rowan has lived here for just 31/2 years -- he came to Youngstown from Sarasota, Fla. -- his presence will long be felt.
During his tenure as head of HMHP, which oversees St. Elizabeth Health Center, St. Joseph Health Center, HM Home Care, HM Home Therapies, HM Home Medical Equipment, The Assumption Village and Humility House, Rowan launched an $80 million improvement campaign that reflects the health system's commitment to the Valley.
That investment can be viewed as the organization's putting its money where its CEO's mouth is. And in the past three years, Rowan certainly hasn't been bashful about expressing his views.
Consider this excerpt of a letter he sent to The Vindicator regarding the city of Youngstown's physical appearance:
"I think that it would be difficult to put too much emphasis on the need to improve the physical impression of downtown Youngstown. The physical impression of our downtown area is improving but not acceptable. It is a deterrent to local citizens to come 'into the city' and it does not reinforce with those from outside the region that Youngstown is a community on the verge of sustained revitalization.
"Repaving the streets, cleaning up vacant lots, tearing down abandoned and uninhabitable homes and creating pockets of green space would advance this cause."
Community leader
St. Elizabeth Health Center is a major employer in the central business district and through Rowan's leadership has spent more than $10 million for physical improvements on and around the St. Elizabeth campus. That is why his opinions matter and why he has come to be regarded as a leader in this community.
His leaving -- he will take over as chief executive officer of St. John Health System in Detroit in November -- comes at an inopportune moment. Youngstown city government, in conjunction with Youngstown State University, is in the midst of developing a blueprint for the city's revival and among the issues being explored is the role the corporate sector should play in this endeavor.
At a time when many companies are abandoning the city for the suburbs -- the proposed 0.5 percent city income tax increase will undoubtedly exacerbate the problem -- Rowan and the Sisters of Humility of Mary have made it clear that St. Elizabeth's presence in downtown Youngstown is unquestioned. HMHP is a major economic player in the Valley and Rowan has made sure that it is a good corporate citizen.
We would hope that Rowan's successor shares his commitment to bringing about positive change in the community.

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