by Tim Gross
John E. Bartimole has authored books, secured funding, developed networks and served on councils and boards for regional and national organizations since graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 1976.
He finds his biggest sense of accomplishment in the ties he has to the place that welcomed him as an undergrad.
“I think one of the biggest compliments I get is when people say that I lived here all my life. It tells me I’m part of the community,” the Connecticut native said.
Basketball and journalism led Mr. Bartimole to Bonaventure in 1972. He studied under Dr. Russell Jandoli, served as an editor for the university’s student newspaper and the sports director for its radio station.
Aside from arming him with the tools to succeed as a journalist, Mr. Bartimole said the university imbued in him a love of the Franciscan way.
“It changed my outlook on life,” he said. “I think I try to embody the Franciscan spirit by being an instrument of peace. I haven’t always succeeded, but it’s a goal.”
Mr. Bartimole said the Franciscan way and the university’s teaching also inspired him to help others.
“What you get at Bonaventure is the philosophy that a career is only a part of life, that life is really about what you do for others as well as what you do for yourself,” he said.
Mr. Bartimole said he applies that philosophy to his current job as the Western New York Healthcare Association (WNYHA) president.
“I try to be fair to everyone, try to put myself in other people’s shoes,” he said.
For the past decade, he has filled the shoes as one of the region’s biggest health care advocates.
As chief executive officer of Southern Tier Health Care System, Inc., from 2000 to 2007, Mr. Bartimole helped start and secure $330,000 for the Children’s Advocacy Center and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program.
His positions in the community include gubernatorial appointee to the Board of Visitors to the New York State School for the Blind and New York State Rural Health Council, and chairman of the board for Rural Health Education Center and Olean Urban Renewal Agency.
Bartimole said his connections to the community helped him earn his job in health care.
“They needed someone who knew the community more than they needed someone who knew health care,” he said.
Donna Kahm, Southern Tier Health Care System Inc. president and CEO, was hired by Bartimole as chief operating officer in 2001 and worked with him until he became president of the Western New York Healthcare Association.
She said Mr. Bartimole became a community leader by always putting Olean and the welfare of others before his own interests,
“John makes a difference by being a peace maker,” she said. “When people are in opposition, he has the ability to bring them together and help them see eye-to-eye.”
Mrs. Kahm said because Bartimole has a reputation as a neutral and fair person, he’s often asked to help lead local initiatives and serve on boards of directors.
“Everybody goes to John when they need someone to MC an event or serve on a board because they know his only agenda is what’s good for the community,” she said. “He never looks at an issue and considers how he could benefit from it. He always looks at how it will benefit the community. He loves Olean and he’s told me many times he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Mr. Bartimole’s work in the community earned him several awards, including the LOUIE (Love Of Olean United In Enterprise) Award in 2003.
He said receiving that award, given annually by the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce, was the high point of his professional life.
“To be mentioned in the same award as people like Louis Magnano and Erick Laine and John Ash, these people are pillars in the community, and to get that same award was an incredible honor,” Mr. Bartimole said.
Mr. Bartimole is the author of two books, “Preventing Missing Children” and “Teenage Alcoholism and Substance Abuse,” as well as several pieces for the NCAA as a self-employed author and communications consultant.
Less than a decade after graduating, Mr. Bartimole returned to the university in 1985, teaching on and off as an adjunct professor in the journalism school.
“Even when I left Bonaventure after I graduated, I had a sneaky feeling I’d be back,” he said.
In 1999, he served as interim dean of planning and continuous improvement at Jamestown Community College Cattaraugus County Campus. He wrote the strategic plan for the college and helped secure $8.3 million in funding.
Lee Coppola, dean of St. Bonaventure’s journalism school, said Mr. Bartimole embodies the sense of pride and accomplishment instilled in students today.
“John’s career sheds beneficial light on the journalism program,” said Dean Coppola, calling him an active participant and counselor to the journalism school.
Last weekend, Mr. Bartimole returned to campus to emcee the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for St. Bonaventure athletics.
Dr. Rick Simpson, an English professor at St. Bonaventure and former instructor of Mr. Bartimole, said he “is one of the really, really good guys. I’m delighted he stayed in the area and contributed in so many ways.”
Mr. Bartimole said those contributions would not have been possible without the university’s influence.
“Bonaventure connections have really propelled me in many ways through my career,” he said.
He said the university continues to help others, just as it helped him.
“I think there is a certain kind of kid who does well at Bonaventure,” he said. “I think that kid is someone who is looking for more than just a career. They may not know it while they’re (in school), but they certainly know it when they leave.”
Tim Gross, a journalism/ mass communication major at St. Bonaventure University, is the sports assignment editor for The Bona Venture, the University’s student newspaper.
About the University: St. Bonaventure is in the top 25 percent of institutions in U.S.News & World Report’s 2009 ranking of Northern Universities – Master’s. It has a history of accomplishment and service that extends back 150 years. At the heart of St. Bonaventure University is the Franciscan affirmation of the dignity and worth of the entire created order. Fundamental to this vision is an awareness that it is within relationships and community that individuals discover and develop their potential.