Healthcare lost a larger-than-life figure when Frank F. Dupper passed away December 31, 2020—22 years to the day after he retired as president of Adventist Health—culminating a storied three-decade career with the West Coast health system.
One of the founders of Adventist Health, Dupper left a legacy that inspires the organization today, said Adventist Health CEO Scott Reiner. “While I never had a chance to work directly with Frank, he affected me deeply. Frank had a profound impact on our organization’s culture, and the private conversations we shared were always so encouraging and centered on the focus of our work: our mission.”
Dupper was born January 20, 1933, in Beebe Draw, Colorado, to a German-speaking immigrant couple, Henry and Caroline Dupper. One of seven siblings, he recalled milking cows by hand and not having electricity at the farm until he was 10 or 12. He would be served well professionally by that grit and work ethic, as well as by dealing with polio, which he referred to as a “blessing from God.”
Dupper attended high school at Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, and graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, with high honors in 1954. The first decade of his career was spent teaching accounting and working as a treasurer for church schools. While at Fresno Union Academy, he met his future wife, Norma Eder, and the couple married on June 24, 1956.
Dupper was recruited to be controller at Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital (now Adventist Health Glendale), where he advanced to vice president of finance. In the early 1970s, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s hospitals were a very loose association. With other administrators, Dupper helped frame a bold vision: Create a healthcare system with a shared mission. In 1974, he became the first vice president of what was then known as Adventist Health Services, and six years later he became president of Adventist Health System/West, a forerunner of the $4 billion integrated health system Adventist Health is today.
Dupper was an embodiment of integrity and servant leadership who also set a high bar. More than one person confessed that no boss ever got as much from them as Dupper did, because nobody wanted to disappoint him. His handwritten notes are treasured still today. His signature line, “Big Thanks, Frank,” was often penned in the first page of a book sent as a gift to his management team and even competitors. Those books were most often spiritual in nature, which reflected Dupper’s Christian faith. A man of prayer, he more than once knelt in his corner office imploring God to guide him while leading the organization in chaotic times.
Upon Dupper’s retirement, Adventist Health established the Dupper Internship Program. To date, approximately 200 young professionals have benefited from the opportunity to learn and grow while working within the healthcare system.
While sometimes characterized as a workaholic, Dupper also was a devoted husband to Norma, his wife of 64 years, and father to Debbie (Mark) Ashlock and Brent (Sylvia) Dupper. He was the family pancake maker and bargain hunter. He was beloved as “Pops” to four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His legacy of service continues in that his children, their spouses, and even grandchildren have worked or are working in healthcare today.
One of Dupper’s most frequently recited quotes was, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” To his family, throngs of friends, fellow church members, and colleagues, Dupper remains a hero for whom we cared very much. Big thanks, Frank!
By Rita Waterman