At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Don Jernigan stood out in a room. Though his physical stature immediately drew the attention of others, the humble Jernigan never craved the spotlight. He instead dedicated a great deal of his efforts to nurturing and developing others. Jernigan, who served as AdventHealth’s president/CEO for a decade, passed away on March 7, 2020 at the age of 75, and those who knew him best are reminded of his willingness to invest in the growth of others.
“I will be forever grateful for the time and energy Don put into developing others. His active, astute and thoughtful processing of issues helped many of us develop our leadership skills in order to assume additional roles and responsibilities,” said Terry Shaw, who succeeded Jernigan as president/CEO for AdventHealth when he retired in 2016, in a letter to team members.
Jernigan spent more than 35 years with the organization, leading physicians, hospitals, regions and ultimately ascending to the top role for the faith-based health care system. Known as a principled leader, he was intensely focused on the organization’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ, fostering a culture of service that cultivated leaders and employees who share a passion for delivering whole-person, Christian health care.
Under his leadership, even amid economic downturns and times of great uncertainty in the health care industry, AdventHealth flourished. The organization widened its footprint across the country, expanding from 37 to as many as 46 hospital campuses, experienced steady growth in its revenue and grew to employ more than 80,000 people. Also, during that time, many AdventHealth hospitals were recognized among the industry’s best in quality, safety and patient satisfaction.
Jernigan also knew the impact that the health system could have outside of its walls, and during his tenure, AdventHealth launched its corporate community involvement program, partnering with other organizations to help improve the health, prosperity and well-being of its surrounding areas. He also put this mindset into practice in his personal life, giving generously to numerous organizations including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Grace Medical Home and United Way.
Just prior to retiring as the organization’s chief executive, Jernigan became a published author with the release of his book, “The Hidden Power of Relentless Stewardship,” which drew in large part from his leadership experience at AdventHealth to detail how strong leadership and sound stewardship can guide an organization to world-class status.
Over his life and extraordinary career in health care, Jernigan touched so many lives and cemented a lasting legacy hallmarked by strong leadership, relentless stewardship and faithful service with an intentional focus on Christian principles and values. Even after his death, Jernigan’s influence will continue to permeate the organization through the AdventHealth Leadership Institute. The facility, for which he was a founding faculty member, focuses on the cultivation and growth of emerging leaders. For his part, Jernigan embraced the opportunity to continue imparting leadership skills and faith-based practical and experiential guidance upon the up-and-coming leaders within the organization.
“Don continued to lend his willing support and leadership expertise through our Leadership Institute. He touched the lives of many, both during his full-time active years and during his years of retirement,” Shaw said.
Jernigan was a member of the Spring Meadows Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is survived by his beloved wife of 41 years, Sharon; his daughters, Jill and Jana; their husbands, Richard and Tim; grandchildren, Hartlea, Gavin and Garrett; and Garrett’s wife, Angela. He will be buried in Belton, Texas, with a private graveside service. A celebration of his life will be held in central Florida at a later date.
In honor of Jernigan, and in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the AdventHealth Leadership Institute with checks payable to:
900 Hope Way
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Attention: Leadership Institute