Lynda Stanley’s upbringing is the backbone to her inspiring community leadership
By TERESA McLAMB
Lynda Stanley’s ninth grade class at Harnett Central High School was presented with the opportunity to travel to France, Italy and Switzerland. It was not something her family could afford. “My parents divorced when I was young. My mom worked two jobs,” Stanley says. Her mother and grandparents supported her, making sure she was cared for. “I didn’t do without much, but that’s not to say I was privileged; my needs were met,” says Stanley. When the European trip presented itself, Stanley’s community stepped in. “We didn’t have the funds, but the community pooled their money so I would have that experience. I was in Shaw Town, a minority community. It was a community investment in me very early to show me that they thought I had it in me to be a leader,” reflects Stanley.
That village nurturing continued through college as a family member sent her $20 a month to help out. Later, she created a scholarship for the family. “We pool our dollars and give one or two or three scholarships to kids as a monthly stipend to help with incidentals,” says Stanley. Her own children received scholarships. Victoria earned a sociology degree from UNCCH, then earned her nursing credentials from Brunswick Community College and UNCW. Tyler earned a business analytics and computer science degree from Elon College.
“Of course, my family had principals, and expectations were high in that I was going to go to church and to school, and I was going to be respectful within the community. I was not going to embarrass my family,” Stanley recalls.
Those principals are with her today as she leads Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport as president of both the hospital and its foundation. Opened in June 1930, Dosher is a private hospital led by a citizen board of trustees. A critical access hospital with 25 beds, the majority of their work is outpatient, according to Stanley. “We do a lot of surgeries and outpatient testing.” They recently introduced robotic surgery.
Appointed president of the hospital a little over a year ago, Stanley had been president of the foundation since it was formed in 2014.
She came to the county and the hospital in 1986 as manager of the laboratory. “I was fortunate that the administrator at that time agreed to invest in my education and leadership and supported my going back to school to get the masters,” she says. Stanley drove to Fayetteville each weekend for the satellite program by CMU. From that point, her level of responsibility gradually increased until she became chief operating officer where she remained until taking the helm of the foundation.
It was also during this time that she joined the board of trustees of Brunswick Community Hospital. She would serve on that board for 24 years, from 1991 to 2015, including multiple terms as chairman, the first Black female to serve. Stanley was recruited for, and served, in state and national positions during her tenure. During her tenure, the county passed a $30 million bond to support the school. “The first time it had failed. Dr. Mike Reaves and I visited the community, telling the benefits, the difference it would make,” Stanley says. The bond not only funded expansion of several buildings, but supported construction of the fitness, aquatics center, and the addition of the student center.
Stanley has also served as board member and president of the Southport Oak Island Chamber of Commerce, on the board of Brunswick County Economic Development, First Citizens Bank board, BB&T board, and is a Diamond Life Member of the community service organization Delta Sigma Theta.
Her longevity and broad involvement in the community made her a good choice for the Dosher Foundation job. “One of my first actions was to take this young foundation and build a board and do a capital campaign; it had never been done at this hospital,” says Stanley. The $2 million campaign was successful.
When the hospital’s CEO left in 2020, she was appointed interim president of the hospital and Dr. Brad Hiliman was appointed CEO and chief medical officer. The two have since been appointed by the board to fill the positions for the foreseeable future.
“I came to Dosher during a tough time. We were in the red financially; there were some accreditation concerns,” Stanley says. Over time, however, the organization has grown to be well respected. The board’s directives and guiding principals have built a team of people who are committed and dedicated and consider the hospital a great place to work. “During COVID, I tip my hat to every healthcare worker; no matter what they do they’re front line,” says Stanley.
Stanley says she has felt privileged to be associated with Dosher. “I’ve asked myself ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why now?’” COVID wasn’t an issue when she took the position, but as she’s transitioned through the past fourteen months, she says, “It’s become obvious to me that this is where I was supposed to be. Whether it’s walking the halls and helping people to feel better about what we’re doing or most recently when the vaccine became available, getting it into the community. On the professional side, I think that my real purpose is to make a difference by helping others. This whole role has fueled that for me. I was privileged to do the same thing on the education side and the volunteer piece of it with the community college. It was so important to me and to make the difference I did there. That’s who I am.”
Stanley applauds the people who provide access to care and to education. “At the end of the day, those people go hand in hand in transforming someone’s life. Every day I ask what I’m going to do to make a difference, even on difficult days.”
Stanley’s assessment of the dual roles assigned by the board is positive. She and the CEO split the house. “I took the business side, and he took the clinical side. It was creative on the board’s part to say, ‘You can do it this way for a while.’ It has worked well. We’ve been able to get a lot done, and there’s a lot left to be done,” says Stanley.
And, there’s time to do it despite initially believing she would live in the community for no more than two years. “There was nothing in Southport 35 years ago for a single young woman. It’s the running joke. I thought I’d build my resume and move,” she says. Instead, she married Joe Stanley who she calls “her rock.” His family has been very active in the county for generations. His uncle was one of Brunswick Community College’s first trustees.
“Joe reminds me to stay focused. I did not get to where I am alone. I stand on the shoulders of a lot of people. People have invested and taken a chance. I’m very grateful,” says Stanley.
“I think because of that I consider my leadership style to be one of a servant leader - because of the way I’ve come through the system. I would never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do. I try to be there for people. Not the one who says you’ll be my way or else,” Stanley says.
“Thirty-five years later, I’m still here. It was definitely the best move of my life.”