SMC Foundation highlights Janzens' generosity ahead of gala

Provided Donors Lorrie and Juergen Janzen stand before the wall that will become the cumulative donor recognition area for Stillwater Medical. Stillwater’s rich medical history will be depicted along with donor categories honoring individuals such as Stillwater’s first physician, Dr. William C. Whittenberg, developer and lumberyard owner, Roy T. Hoke, as well as clothier and SMC Board Chairman, Sam Bates. Recognition will honor the historical charitable investments made to Stillwater Medical in the hallway connecting the Heart and Vascular Institute to the hospital visitor’s desk.

As last year’s Stillwater Medical Foundation live auction was about to begin, Juergen Janzen left his seat and walked over to Scott Petty, Executive Director.

Juergen whispered that he and his wife, Lorrie, were making a $20,000 gift to the new Heart and Vascular Institute. Petty smiled and expressed his genuine appreciation, shaking his hand and giving him a pat on the back.

Petty was reminded of another whispered conversation he had at with the generous philanthropist, T. Boone Pickens. In 2006, Petty was serving as president of the Stillwater Public Education Foundation and Pickens was the keynote speaker for their gala.

“Before I introduced him, Mr. Pickens very quietly said to me, ‘I’m donating $25,000 tonight. I’d appreciate it if you’d wait to announce that after I’ve left,’” Petty said.

“While I wanted to fist-bump, high-five, or hug him, I kept my composure and followed his humble request. He had to head out right after he spoke and didn’t need or expect any fanfare. He clearly didn’t want a standing ovation, even though he got one. He just wanted to say thank you to the teachers, administrators, and others making an impact on student’s lives.”

Juergen and Lorrie Janzen also wanted to make an impact. Their commitment included a matching grant from Toyota that would double the sweetness of their gift.

“What could be more important than saving someone’s life, or helping them recover from a potentially crippling illness?” Juergen said.

It was personal for Juergen.

“My dad was a heart patient. He had a microvalve procedure when he was 29. The aspect of having this care, in Stillwater, is important to me,” he said. “Time is critical in these situations. How soon you can get care, the faster they can expedite care, as opposed to sending someone to Oklahoma City.”

Janzen said his father was something like a “guinea pig” when he was having his procedure, it wasn’t common and wasn’t always successful. Knowing that a state of the art institute could be placed here for heart patients, and that he could help, was meaningful to him.

“I’m thankful to those who had the foresight to get this done,” he said. 

Janzen was also thankful his corporate partners could lend a hand.

“It’s partly being a good corporate citizen. Toyota wants their dealers to be good corporate citizens, and not many corporations care this much about things at the local level.”

On Sept. 4, the Janzens donned hard-hats, safety glasses, and vests for a tour of the Heart and Vascular Institute in the final stages of construction.

“Seeing the expanded space where more than one person can be saved at the same time was inspiring. Knowing that we, with other Stillwater citizens, have helped make this happen ... there just aren’t words to describe the feeling,” Lorrie said.

This Thursday, another sellout crowd of 350 guests will fill Sparrow Beginnings for the Viva L’Italia Gala as another special “Grateful Patient” story is unveiled. The story emphasizes how diagnosis, screenings, and interventional procedures can save lives. The completion of Stillwater Medical’s Heart & Vascular Institute also means more cardiologist recruitment, which in turn strengthens cardiac care across north central Oklahoma.

As the gala approaches, Petty wonders who will be the next to whisper a generous word in his ear.

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