Denny DeWitt: My Sam

My friend Ron Pavellas has been my mentor since the mid 1970s. We met when he was a hospital administrator in Modesto, California, and I worked for the California Hospital Association.

He provided guidance for about four years to me before moving to Alaska. He encouraged me to apply for the CEO of the Alaska hospital association, which is the job that brought me to Alaska in 1980. Along the way he was chair of my association board and left Alaska about a year before I left to do a stint in Washington DC.

I was divorced in 1984. Ron, who had been divorced, stood by me in some very dark and discouraging days during that time. His willingness to share his experiences helped me believe that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Later the next year my job became very tenuous and Ron was a great help in managing the situation. Several years later, Ron was himself looking for a job and I was able to help him land a position in Homer, Alaska. Ron has retired and moved to Sweden. We stay in touch through email and Facebook. He just wrote a letter of recommendation for me and I just
finished briefing a friend of his on long term care in America.

At one time when my character was challenged, I remember Ron looking across the table and saying quietly and firmly, “I trust Denny with my life, this discussion is finished.” That statement very much helped me, but it also forced me to listen to Ron when he made suggestions I didn’t want to hear. There was never any question that he had my best
interests in mind.


  1. There are those few people you meet with whom there is a special resonance. Denny DeWitt is one of the few for me.

    Denny is a truth-teller, in my manner of labeling people.

    When we met I was a babe regarding matters of state and local government. I needed to know such things because I was newly the chief administrator of a county hospital, as he mentions. He has never been shy of telling me (and others) how it really is: what forces and interests are at play and what the likely outcomes are under different assumptions. He was, therefore and despite my being 10 years older, my mentor in matters of advocacy in the realm of state and local government.

    I am never so happy as when Denny has the opportunity to tell me that I am full of horse hockey.

    I like to live in the real world, and Denny has oriented me toward it countless times.

    And, he has been my friend since 1977.

  2. Ron:
    Thanks for sharing. Denny is one of those who “tells it like it is” without fear or favor.
    He was a great Sam for me as well.
    And I agree, he has a wonderful way of finding the “horse hockey”

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