Home Back Issues February 2014 Aging gracefully

Aging gracefully

| Print |  Email
Articles - February 2014
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Article Index
Aging gracefully
Page 2
0214 PROFILE2
Rose Villa CEO Vassar Byrd
// Photo by Jason Kaplan

BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

Sometimes Vassar Byrd feels like a loser. After all, when the CEO of Milwaukie’s Rose Villa retirement community measures her 51 years against the decades of experience of the elders she spends her days with, how can the comparison be anything but humbling?

“I find out things residents have done that are astounding,” says the lanky, smoky-voiced chief executive. “They come to us with huge histories.”

In a culture where the elderly are not always valued, Byrd’s humility is uncommon. And in an industry where most executives’ backgrounds are in business, her education in gerontology is also rare. Yet Byrd’s knowledge of and respect for seniors are manifest not only in how she has rejuvenated Rose Villa, but also in how she is remaking the nonprofit continuing-care community as it undergoes a major redevelopment.

 “As I plan for the future, I have to stay connected to the residents,” Byrd says. “For me, that’s where the juice comes from.”

Byrd started down her winding path to Rose Villa as an economist. After growing up in Vancouver, Wash., the left-brained “fast processor” enrolled in the London School of Economics with grandiose notions of leading the International Monetary Fund. 

Byrd quickly learned, however, that “super- high-level economics was just super-boring math.” Post graduation, the extrovert found human connection in consulting, eventually moving back to the Portland area for a job with ECONorthwest.

Then Dorothy happened. Byrd had started volunteering for Meals on Wheels and found herself regularly spending as much as an hour with this last client on her delivery route, captivated by the wheelchair-bound woman’s stories of bucking gender stereotypes in the Pendleton Round-Up. “I blame it all on her,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to have more of this.’”

Chasing that feeling, Byrd went through the state’s certification program to become a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. But she got a rude awakening when the facility she was assigned to monitor turned out to be a foul-smelling, dismal nursing home. After a nursing aide purposely let slip that patients’ medications were not being properly disposed of, Byrd built a case proving the facility’s director of nursing services was using and selling narcotics prescribed to residents. She was in the courtroom when the Oregon attorney general stripped the owners of their licenses for life.

“That all happened and I was unable to just keep going with my regular economist life,” Byrd says. “I called the [state long-term care] ombudsman and asked: ‘If you wanted to run your own alternative, hippie, commune nursing home, how would you go about doing that?’”



 

More Articles

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

Oregon Business wins awards

News
Monday, June 30, 2014

ASBPEOregon Business magazine won two silver awards for excellence in writing in the National American Society of Business Publication Editors Western region competition.


Read more...

Is this employee right?

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
081314 thumb employeefeelingsBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

When I say, “Your Employee is Always Right,” I do not mean “right about the facts,” but rather “right about how they feel” and “right about how they want to be led.”


Read more...

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Attack of the Robin Sages

Contributed Blogs
Monday, July 07, 2014
070714 thumb linkedinfakesBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Named after the 2010 experiment by Thomas Ryan, "Robin Sages" are fake social media profiles designed to encourage linking and divulging valuable information.


Read more...

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS