Colleagues remember the bright spirit of Cathy Adkison

Kelly Otte and Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

Cathy Adkison, CEO of Big Bend Hospice 2011-2019, loved blue, pearls and inspired hope. (Photo: Special to the Democrat)

Cathy Adkison, CEO of Big Bend Hospice, passed away on Dec. 12. Cathy led Big Bend Hospice for eight years during a period of tremendous growth and success. This included the 35th anniversary of the organization, opening of the Jean McCully Family House, and renovation of the Margaret E. Dozier Hospice House. 

Bill Wertman, interim CEO said, “I have served with many leaders in my life but none more compassionate and measured than Cathy Adkison. She always led from the heart and for the last eight years she gave heart and soul to this organization. It saddens me that her feisty spirit and beautiful smile will be absent from my world.” 

Along with her leadership of Big Bend Hospice, Cathy served on the board of the Alzheimer’s Project, United Partners for Human Services, and United Way of the Big Bend.

Amber Tynan, Executive Director of UPHS said, “Cathy had a spirit so bright, and a smile that matched it. Her passing is a tremendous loss to our community and the human services sector, but her legacy will have an impact for generations to come. Cathy was a beacon of light and the kind of leader who led with intentionality and grace; always putting the needs of others above her own and oftentimes providing dignity, justice and hope to those she encountered. Our UPHS family will hold her memory fondly.”

Hospice team member Sharon Davidson said, “One of Cathy’s greatest gifts was when she met with anyone one on one, she made them feel so special. And she would remember and recall details of that conversation every time she saw them afterwards”. 

Chairman of the Big Bend Hospice Board of Directors Rheb Harbison shared, “Cathy was a visionary leader who excelled in helping Big Bend Hospice anticipate and prepare for changes in the hospice and palliative care industry. During her tenure, Big Bend Hospice celebrated its 35th anniversary and strengthened its reputation for excellent care. We will miss her tremendously.”

Nigel Allen, President & Chief Advancement Officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Foundation worked with Cathy at Hospice for many years. He shared “Cathy was a brave, kind, principled and dedicated leader who inspired everyone who worked for her. She literally changed my life when she invited me to work at Big Bend Hospice and I will be forever grateful to her. “

Debbie Moroney, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Project said, “Cathy was a strong advocate for caregivers and those living with dementia by serving on the board of the Alzheimer’s Project board of directors. She brought her insight, leadership and heart for service to the organization.”

Kelly Otte 
Kelly: Cathy was a joy to work with on issues impacting the human services sector. She had a very good brain. She was super thoughtful and an excellent listener and when she had something to say it was worth listening to. She was also incredibly compassionate. When my father became seriously ill and ended up housing and care insecure, Cathy reached out and asked me how she could help. She was well aware of the gap in services for fixed income elders who needed assisted living and gave me several good contacts and ideas. When it was time, she facilitated him entering Big Bend Hospice House and I will be incredibly grateful to her for that for the rest of my life.

Alyce Lee Stansbury
Alyce Lee: Like any business, leading a successful nonprofit requires vision, the ability to build authentic relationships, and engender trust. Cathy was successful at all these things and was honored when the board of Big Bend Hospice created the Cathy Adkinson Leadership Award, to be given to a Hospice employee who embodies her compassion and excellence as a leader.

Thank you to Cathy for her service to people and our community. We will keep her family and the Big Bend Hospice family in our hearts as they deal with her loss.

Notes on Nonprofits is written collaboratively by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting and Kelly Otte, MPA, Executive Director of Pace Center for Girls/Leon. Please email your questions or column ideas to [email protected].

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