SHF executive director announces retirement

LaJoie served as ED of Superior Health Foundation for nearly 12 years

The Superior Health Foundation will soon have a new executive director.  

Jim LaJoie, who has served as the non-profit organization’s executive director since its inception on Sept. 1, 2012, is retiring, effective this May. 

Under his leadership, the Superior Health Foundation awarded more than $7.1 million in health-centered grants across the Upper Peninsula, established dozens of meaningful relationships and collaborations with non-profit organizations in the U.P. and across the state, led the charge on three very successful fundraising events (annual gala, annual golf outing and annul Painting the Peninsula Pink to raise money for those facing breast cancer) that raised in excess of $1,3 million, and played a decisive role in bringing like-minded organizations together to improve the health and well-being of people.

“I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful career with the Superior Health Foundation and philanthropy,” said LaJoie, who began his career in healthcare philanthropy as the major gifts and planned giving officer in December 2004 for the-then Marquette General Foundation. “I leave with a tremendous amount of pride in knowing that our foundation provided much-needed funding to so many deserving non-profits and people across our region.

“I will miss the countless life-sustaining relationships I’ve built, our incredible board of directors, and most of all, my tremendous team. I have been honored and humbled to serve as their boss for more than a decade.”  

Sara Giles, president of the Superior Health Foundation board of directors, expressed her heartfelt gratitude for LaJoie’s tenure. 

“I want to thank you for your outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment to the residents of the Upper Peninsula with your work at the Superior Health Foundation,” Giles said. “Your dedication to serving our community has been nothing short of inspiring. Your genuine kindness and visionary approach to create a healthier U.P. have left a lasting mark on all who have had the privilege of working alongside you. 

“Your passion for improving the well-being of our region has been a driving force behind the Foundation’s numerous funded grants, each making a tangible difference in the lives of those we serve,” she added. “Your ability to lead and inspire an amazing team has been instrumental in the Foundation’s success. Your work ethic, integrity and compassion were evident in every grant celebration, gala fundraiser, golf outing and board meeting.  You always took the time to get to know the organizations we served and told their story so we could meet the needs presented.”  

Added Dan Arnold, MD, whose tenure on the board of directors for both the Marquette General Foundation and Superior Health Foundation mirrors LaJoie’s 19 years: “Jim has made it his mission to fund health-based non-profits and assist in their establishment and development.

“Under Jim’s management,” Arnold added, “the Superior Health Foundation has attained statewide visibility and reputation for innovative granting practices.”

LaJoie began his fundraising career in 2004. Jan Hillman was executive director of the Marquette General Foundation.  

“Having met Jim, it became apparent that he had the ability, empathy and forthrightness to be a superb advancement professional,” Hillman said. “Jim quickly confirmed these thoughts and with the fervor he had as an athlete, he learned, practiced and improved quickly into the consummate professional he is today. 

“ Jim’s strongest skill is listening with his heart to prospects, donors and everyone he meets,” Hillman added. “I cannot think of higher praise.  Bravo Jim and happiest trails in your retirement!”

“Jim is a special human whose tireless dedication to improving the health of the Upper Peninsula will impact generations to come.  He has a unique ability to bring people together around a common goal,” said Kelly Sager, regional health coordinator for the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency. “Our U.P. communities are healthier and happier thanks to his leadership. Thank you for everything Jim and best wishes for a fulfilling retirement!”

Greg Toutant, the Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes Recovery, said LaJoie will be missed. 

“Jim’s contributions to the health and wellness of our region are unparalleled,” Toutant said. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that people and communities can overcome health disparities, and he has leveraged and brought about resources to countless organizations and causes that would not have been possible otherwise.  

“Without his leadership, stewardship, support and guidance, many organizations and projects throughout the U.P. and the state would not have succeeded. He has been a catalyst for change, growth, teamwork and for tackling many complex health and social conditions,” Toutant added. “He leaves a profound impact on the lives of all those he touched and a legacy of programming and services that will continue to shape our communities for years.”

Added Erik Conradson, founder and executive director of Courage Incorporated, a non-profit that takes veterans and those with disabilities on outdoor excursions: “Over the course of six years we have partnered with Jim, I’ve known him to be passionate about helping people in our communities live better lives and assisting people and organizations who aspire to do the same. 

“He’s been an advocate for my nonprofit organization, and many that work so hard to make the Upper Peninsula such an amazing place to live,” Conradson added. “I’ve seen firsthand how Jim’s passion and effort have made life-changing differences across multiple demographics. He has stood out as a leader within his own organization and the greater community, inspiring numerous others to join his campaign to make life better for those around us. Thank you!”  

Added Giles: “I’m deeply grateful for the meaningful relationships you have cultivated with board directors, both new and old. Your ability to foster collaboration, trust and mutual respect has been instrumental in guiding the Foundation’s strategic direction and ensuring alignment with our collective vision. 

“As you transition into the next phase of your journey,” Giles added, “I want to extend my warmest wishes for continued success and fulfillment. Your leadership has been a beacon of hope and inspiration, and your legacy will endure long after your tenure at the Foundation.” 

In retirement, LaJoie plans to keep semi-active in the fundraising field, having already agreed to help several, non-profit organizations in the U.P. He says he looks forward to having his first summer off since he was 16 years old and plans to spend a lot of time on the golf course, at his family camp and family cottage on Lake Michigan. An author of three books, he plans on writing another “one or two.” He and his wife, Kim, are also planning to travel to worldly destinations.

The Superior Health Foundation board of directors are wrapping up a nationwide search for LaJoie’s successor. A new executive director has been selected and will begin working with the foundation in April. A press release on the new ED will be released in the coming weeks.

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