New Clark Retirement CEO focuses on baby boomers


Brian Pangle, the new president and CEO of Clark Retirement Community, considers himself to be on the tail-end of the baby boomer generation, and he said he knows members of his generation hope to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

“We are going to want to live at a very independent style as long as we possibly can, but with the capability, when necessary, to access services that will be necessary as we age and as our independence becomes less and less.”

Besides being a member of the generation that is starting to move into retirement, Pangle is the former CEO of Great Lakes Specialty Hospitals Western Michigan, where he was responsible for the leadership and day-to-day operations of long-term acute care hospitals in Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

He also served as the vice president of operations of Michigan Medical PC, which at that time was the largest physician group in West Michigan. Prior to that, he was vice president of finance and CFO of the Continuing Care Division of Spectrum Health. 

All of which leaves him poised for his newest position, which he began July 6.

“I have a strong background in the acute-care and post-acute-care environment, working closely with the health systems here in West Michigan — whether its Trinity, Metro, Spectrum Health or others — on caring for people who need acute services,” he said.

“That is one of the things that Clark Retirement Community provides is an environment for rehab and ongoing care for patients that need to stay in a health care setting. Also, an understanding of the continuing care retirement community space in terms of what seniors in our community need today from an independent living standpoint.

“Probably over and above all of that, the ability to understand how to take an organization and move it forward in terms of growth, expansion and new services. From my perspective, it’s the right place, right time for the opportunity to come together with Clark and my background.”

Though Clark Retirement Community and Pangle have yet to talk specifics about growth, expansion and new services, he said he is confident the board of trustees is ready to tackle the question about what the organization needs to become over the next five to 15 years to continue to be a leader in the market.

“Clark has a strong operational financial foundation in place and is poised to take advantage of the opportunities, and that is what excites me about it,” he noted. “They have a progressive board of trustees who want to be relevant long term. They’ve been around 106 years, and my job is to make sure they are relevant for another 106 years.”

Pangle said Clark is not alone in West Michigan when it comes to being a well-run continuing care retirement community.

“Clark is one of them, but there are others — Holland Home, Porter Hills, etc. There are great opportunities with the Affordable Care Act now, really, to begin partnering with each other, collaborating, and collaborating with health systems on how do we meet the needs of the aging population, whether it’s in hospital systems or in continuing care retirement community systems.

“West Michigan, as I can see it, has done a phenomenal job at looking at how to collaborate, and the organizations I’ve just described are ones that recognize the need to collaborate.”

Pangle admits it won’t all be smooth sailing, especially with the size of the baby boomer population and their various needs.

He noted that, although there are a lot of services out there, sometimes it’s still hard to find or gain access to them.

“I think there is a lot of fragmentation and un-coordination,” he said. “That is a challenge — how to coordinate and how to reduce the fragmentation and help not only the seniors but, frankly, the people helping them make their decisions … their children. I have aging parents and we are helping them all the time now in terms of what is the right next step. So what are all the organizations out there that can help people in that age group?

“There are certainly financial issues. Anything that has to get done in this space requires financial wherewithal to make it happen, and there is not an unlimited tool of resources for any organization out there.

“So how to make wise and good decisions with the resources that are available becomes very important.”

Another challenge is labor. Pangle said he certainly sees job opportunities in the realm of continuing care. One avenue that has been discussed, though not at length, he said, is what opportunities there might be with local colleges and universities to create training programs to help find that talent early on and prepare them for the positions where they are most needed.

“I think it’s an important area for us as a community to recognize that the people we represent and work with and work for are very valuable members of society, and we are trying to help them have the best possible experience in the latter part of their years. And I’ve come to appreciate that over the years — how important that is.”

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