Celebrating the Life of Frank F. Dupper

February 16, 2021 | Health | Christine Pickering

January 20, 1933 – December 31, 2020

Health care lost a larger-than-life figure when Frank F. Dupper passed away Dec. 31, 2020 — 22 years to the day after he retired as president of Adventist Health, culminating a storied, three-decade career with the West Coast health system.

One of the founders of Adventist Health, Dupper left a legacy that inspires the organization today, says Scott Reiner, Adventist Health CEO. “While I never had a chance to work directly with Frank, he affected me deeply," Reiner explains. "Frank had a profound impact on our organization’s culture, and the private conversations we shared were always so encouraging and centered on the focus of our work: our mission.”

Dupper was born January 20, 1933, in Beebe Draw, Colorado, to a German-speaking immigrant couple, Henry and Caroline Dupper. One of seven siblings, he recalled not having electricity at the farm until he was 10 or 12 and milking cows by hand. He was served well professionally by that grit and work ethic, as well as by dealing with polio, which he referred to as a “blessing from God.”

Dupper attended high school at Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, and graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, with high honors in 1954. The first decade of his career was spent teaching accounting and working as a treasurer for church schools. While at Fresno Union Academy in California, he met his future wife, Norma Eder. The couple married on June 24, 1956.

Dupper was recruited to be controller at Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital (now Adventist Health Glendale), where he advanced to vice president of finance. In the early 1970s, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s hospitals were a very loose association. With other administrators, Dupper helped frame a bold vision to create a health care system with a shared mission.

In 1974, Dupper became the first vice president of what was then known as Adventist Health Services. Six years later he became president of Adventist Health System/West, a forerunner of the $4 billion integrated health system Adventist Health is today.

Dupper was an embodiment of integrity and servant leadership who also set a high bar. More than one person confessed that no boss ever got as much from them as Dupper did — because nobody wanted to disappoint him. His handwritten notes are treasured still today. His signature line, “Big Thanks, Frank,” was often penned in the first page of a book sent as a gift to his management team and even competitors. Those books were most often spiritual in nature, which reflected Dupper’s Christian faith. A man of prayer, he more than once knelt in his corner office imploring God to guide him while leading the organization in chaotic times.

Upon Dupper’s retirement, Adventist Health established the Dupper Internship Program. About 200 young professionals have benefited to date from the opportunity to learn and grow while working within the health care system.

While sometimes characterized as a workaholic, Dupper also was a devoted husband to Norma, his wife of 64 years, and father to Debbie (Mark) Ashlock and Brent (Sylvia) Dupper. He was the family pancake-maker and bargain-hunter. He was beloved as “Pops” to four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His legacy of service continues in his children, their spouses and even his grandchildren who have worked or are working in health care today.

One of Dupper’s most frequently recited quotes was, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” To his family, throngs of friends, fellow church members and colleagues, Dupper remains a hero for whom we cared very much. Big thanks, Frank!