It would surprise no one that Earl Dresser was a stickler for the bottom line and meeting the business demands of running hospitals. But colleagues say that Dresser, longtime administrator at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, also fostered the kind of creativity that would lead to health-care innovation.
“He helped train future administrators and future leaders over decades in health care,” said Roxanna Gapstur, president of Methodist. “His impact will be felt for generations.”
Dresser, 93, died July 7 at Methodist, where he served as president from 1966 to 1986.
As president, he was instrumental in the creation and implementation of what is now the Frauenshuh Cancer Center, the Struthers Parkinson’s Center and what is now the Melrose Center for eating disorders. In addition, he fostered 25 teaching programs at Methodist that prepared students for a variety of careers in health care.
In 1986, the Park Nicollet Foundation established the Earl G. Dresser Volunteer Service Award to honor volunteers whose contributions to the hospital mission are truly notable, officials said.
His dedication to the hospital and to health care continued for years after his retirement, said Beth Warner, senior major gifts officer for the Park Nicollet Foundation.
“He was very well-read and curious. He listened and he really believed in collaboration,” Warner said, noting that hospital officials sought out Dresser’s input when they were developing a new program for hospice care. “Oftentimes, I would meet with Earl to talk through different ideas. … He gave great advice and great encouragement.”
He was born and raised in Arlington, Minn. At 18, he joined the Army and served in the medical service corps. Dresser later returned to Minnesota, earning a degree in hospital administration from the University of Minnesota in 1949. He worked at Minneapolis’ Asbury Methodist Hospital as assistant administrator and was on the planning committee responsible for the hospital’s move to St. Louis Park in 1959.
He met and married Neoma Jacobson, later heading to administrator jobs in Illinois and then Wisconsin. Dresser returned to Minnesota in 1966 to become Methodist’s top executive.
In 1974, he was president of the Minnesota Hospital Association and in 1982 was elected chairman of the 16,500-member American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). In 2010, he was awarded ACHE’s Lifetime Service Award.
At Methodist, he developed a one-day Surgery Center and directed the renovation of the hospital’s nursery, doubling its space. He established the Senior Connection in 1985 and the Physician Connection in 1986 to provide a toll-free way for physicians from throughout the region to contact members of the Methodist medical staff for consultation and referral.
He also was a faculty member at the University of Minnesota in hospital administration.
For all his dedication to his work — he toted his briefcase almost everywhere — his daughter Donna Dresser fondly recalls the kids tagging along on business trips and playing games during long drives across the country. Her father, she said, made time for his family.
“He was always willing to stop whenever we wanted something,” she said. “One New Year’s, I wanted something, a Monkees album, I think it was, and he put his briefcase down and took me to the record shop.”
Dresser was preceded in death by his wife and is survived by daughter Donna of Spring Park and a son, Robert of Young America. Services have been held.