Lincoln to retire as president and chief executive of Covenant Health

April 1, 2019

David Lincoln will retire April 26 as president and chief executive of Covenant Health of Tewksbury, Mass., having served in that capacity for three decades.

Covenant Health is rooted in the health ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also known as the Grey Nuns. In 1983, the congregation united their U.S.-based health care ministries which included two acute care sites, one long-term care site, a skilled nursing facility and three independent living facilities. The new organization was known as the Grey Nuns Health System. As part of the initial leadership team, Lincoln was appointed vice president of planning in 1984. In 1989, he became the first lay chief executive, and he was tasked with the responsibility of leading the organization through a transformative process to ensure the future success of the ministry.

Lincoln says this process defines his professional legacy. In partnership with Sr. June Ketterer, SGM, the provincial leader of the Grey Nuns, Lincoln led the transition of the Grey Nuns ministry to a public juridic person model of sponsorship, a process that was completed in 1996. The model supported the emerging concept of lay leadership, and in October of 1996, Lincoln took on what he calls the "awesome responsibility" of serving as the first president and chief executive of the sponsor board, a position he'll hold until his retirement.

"In my wildest dreams, I wouldn't have thought I'd be at the leading edge of that change in Catholic health care," he says. He notes that his personal faith was strengthened witnessing this transfer of sponsorship. "The Grey Nuns held their health care ministry as most precious," he recalls. "Yet they embraced reality and wanted to plan for the future. Their numbers were diminishing. (Today, there are 200 Grey Nuns worldwide and only 16 in the U.S.) They were able to hand off their sponsorship with profound grace, faith and trust. It was a definitive time, and one I have held close throughout my career."

The new sponsorship model also supported the addition of new facilities from other sponsoring congregations. Today, Covenant Health includes three acute care hospitals, 10 eldercare organizations and a network of other facilities across seven northeastern states.

Over the years, Lincoln's commitment to the advancement of Catholic health care also has included service to numerous other organizations. He was the chair of the CHA Board of Trustees in 1997-98, and he served on the boards of Catholic Healthcare Partners and Catholic Health Initiatives.

Looking back, Lincoln says it is the connection with the Grey Nuns that he will most treasure. "I have relied on their guidance and wisdom throughout my career, and I am profoundly grateful for the decades-long partnership with Sr. June Ketterer."

With Lincoln's retirement, Covenant Health is assigning his duties to two Covenant Health executives. Stephen J. Grubbs succeeds Lincoln as president and chief executive of Covenant Health, the civil corporation. Gerard J. Foley will be president and chief executive of Covenant Health Systems, the public juridic person of the health system.


Grubbs joined Covenant Health in September as interim chief financial officer. Previously, he'd been president and chief executive of Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart System in Panama City, Fla.; chief executive for Paris Regional Medical Center in Paris, Texas; and chief executive for Regional Hospital in Jackson, Tenn., and other Community Health Systems hospitals in Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Grubbs will be a member of the PJP board. His master's in business administration is from Bethel University.

Succeeding Lincoln as sponsor body head, Foley continues as Covenant Health senior vice president with oversight for human resources as well as president of the system's post-acute care organizations. Before joining Covenant Health at the system level, Foley was president and chief executive of the system's Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services. Additionally, his previous experience includes tenure as chief executive of Kindred Hospital Boston North Shore; and executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Mass. He earned a master's in public health from Yale University and a law degree from Suffolk University Law School.

In 2018, Foley also assumed leadership for the Northeastern USA Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a Roman Catholic Order under the Holy See with the objectives of strengthening the practice of Christian life and supporting Christians living in the Holy Land.


Copyright © 2019 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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