Sr. Generose Gervais, OSF, a retired administrator of Saint Marys Hospital who was instrumental in the formal integration of that hospital into the Mayo Clinic in 1986, died on Oct. 7 at Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys campus in Rochester, Minn. She was 97.
Dr. John Noseworthy, president and chief executive of the Mayo Clinic, called her "a giant in our history and a model for us all" in his written remarks to colleagues to inform them of Sr. Gervais' death.
CHA honored her in 2011 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sr. Gervais worked in administrative leadership roles at Saint Marys Hospital from 1971 to 1985, the fifth and final Franciscan sister to hold the top job at the hospital built in 1889 by the sisters with Dr. William Worrall Mayo. She led the hospital through considerable growth, including the Mary Brigh Building, which was the largest single hospital project in Minnesota at the time.
She founded the Poverello Foundation, which has helped nearly 13,000 Saint Marys Hospital patients with medical expenses since its inception in 1983. Tributes to Sr. Gervais recall her sharp business acumen, including her role as the first woman on the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis' Board of Directors in 1979. She also loved making jellies and pickles, with proceeds benefitting the Poverello Foundation.
Sr. Gervais worked to integrate Saint Marys Hospital into the Mayo Clinic in 1986, an arrangement that at the time maintained the sponsorship of the Sisters of St. Francis. (Beginning in 2013, the two hospitals of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester – Saint Marys Hospital and Rochester Methodist Hospital – transitioned to become Mayo Clinic Hospital – Rochester, ending the Catholic sponsorship for Saint Marys.)
Sr. Gervais had a presence at Saint Marys Hospital until her death. In an obituary published on the Mayo Clinic website, Sr. Tierney Trueman, OSF, called Sr. Gervais honest and firm, gentle and compassionate. Sr. Trueman said Sr. Gervais' empty office echoes the message a dying St. Francis of Assisi gave his followers: "'I have done what is mine to do, may God give you the strength to do what is yours.'"
Sr. Gervais held multiple board appointments over the years, and chaired the CHA Board of Trustees in 1982.
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