Dan Lindh ’75 Named Alumnus of the Year

When Lindh graduated almost 45 years ago, he envisioned a comfortable corporate career. What he got instead was both unexpected and exhilarating.

By Jenny Hudalla '15, senior content specialist

October 16, 2020 | 9 a.m.

Dan Lindh

Dan Lindh is the president of Presbyterian Homes and Services and 2020 Alumnus of the Year for the College of Arts & Sciences.

In 1975, Dan Lindh’s future was coming together nicely. Having just graduated from Bethel University with a major in psychology and minors in economics and philosophy, he had an attractive corporate job offer on the table, complete with benefits and stock options. Then a phone call changed everything.  

Presbyterian Homes and Services (PHS), then a small senior living organization, asked Lindh to join its staff for just a third of the salary he’d been offered by corporate. Initially, Lindh declined—but he felt God pushing him to reconsider. “I saw the opportunity to impact culture, which is a concept that was reinforced at Bethel,” Lindh says. “I felt called to ignore the economics and prioritize the mission.”

That calling has remained at the forefront of Lindh’s mind for almost 45 years. He has held just about every C-level title in the organization—chief financial officer, chief administrative officer, chief operating officer, and finally chief executive officer and president, a role he’s held for almost a quarter of a century. Under his leadership, PHS has grown from one location serving 200 people to 50 locations serving more than 27,000 people. Now the fourth-largest nonprofit senior care provider in the nation, PHS partners with 7,000 employees and 3,500 volunteers to provide everything from primary and hospice care to transportation and home-delivered meals.

“We recruit people who live and breathe our mission,” he says. “We want to impact older adults who are often nearing the end of their lives. It’s a mission field where we meet needs and have meaningful conversations.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant strain on senior living organizations nationwide, including PHS. More than half of its 7,000 employees have had to take time off of work, mostly because of mandatory self-quarantine. Those still able to work put in long hours helping older adults and their families balance complex issues like the safety of isolation versus the risk of isolation.

While the virus is front and center in the senior care field, Lindh—who led PHS through the Great Recession and severe seasons of influenza—says it’s not entirely unlike other challenges the organization has navigated. “During a crisis, our first priority is to focus on our purpose of honoring God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” Lindh says. “That’s an effective foundation, because we have a framework for lament, acceptance, and stepping forward in faith. We can’t make light of situations like this, but we also can’t lose heart.”

That resilience has equipped Lindh with seemingly superhuman energy, as he and other leaders in the organization remain on call every minute of every day. In between daily hotspot check-ins, Lindh finds time to advocate for senior care policies at the state and national level, sit on about 40 corporate boards, and brainstorm with his team as they consider what’s next.

"Now is the time to ask questions about what we can do differently in the future. We need the commitment and resolve to take the next step, because we know our hope is in things unseen.”

— Dan Lindh

The pandemic has ushered in a new era of telemedicine, home health volunteers, and other delivery systems that could revolutionize healthcare. “Now is the time to ask questions about what we can do differently in the future,” he says. “We need the commitment and resolve to take the next step, because we know our hope is in things unseen.”

That same ethos has led PHS to take what Lindh calls “meaningful steps into an unknown future.” The aging of the global population promises to produce pressing challenges in the years to come, and Lindh says it’s energizing to think about ways to approach those emerging needs. As PHS continues to grow, it has committed to serving more low-income older adults, developing more leaders, and pioneering new care delivery models. 

But, in the end, it’s not the organization’s expansion or innovation that matters most to him. “People and impact are the things that really count,” he says. “When my work is done, I hope lives have been impacted for eternity.”

Nominate the 2021 Alumni of the Year

Every year, Bethel honors three outstanding alumni. If you know an incredible alum who deserves to be recognized, let us know! Nominations are accepted year-round and remain in consideration for three years.

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