NHF’s Board Chairs
Samira K. Beckwith, LCSW, FACHE
NHF Chair, February, 2012 – Present
Samira Beckwith is a Founding Member of the National Hospice Foundation’ s Board of Directors and Executive Committee, serving in numerous leadership roles since 1994. She has served as President and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services, based in Fort Myers, Florida since 1991.
While working on her Master of Social Work at the Ohio State University, Beckwith was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. She befriended other patients who did not fare well in their battle against hopelessness. That was when she made a promise to herself to use her experience to help others live a better life, even during serious illness or in the final chapter. That promise became the foundation of her career as a social worker and national hospice leader.
Former Governor Jeb Bush once described her as a visionary who provides leadership on a local and national level – “passionate about ensuring the highest quality” of service in her role as President of Hope.
Beckwith is a recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented to distinguished Americans who “represent the very essence of the American way of life.” She has received the Ohio State University Alumni Association’s Medalist Award, and has been inducted into the Ohio State University College of Social Work Hall of Fame.
Mary J. Labyak, NHF Chair 2011-February 4, 2012
Mary Labyak was the leader of Suncoast Hospice from 1980 until her death in February 2012. Her work with the organization began in 1977, when she joined other volunteers in seeking to find better ways of caring for people at the end of life. She became the agency's president and executive director in 1983. Under her leadership, Suncoast Hospice has grown from a small group of volunteers and staff into the largest not for profit community based hospice anywhere. More than 1,000 employees and about 3,000 volunteers care for more than 1,600 patients each day in The Hospice's Pinellas County community.
A nationally recognized expert in hospice and palliative care, Ms.Labyak held leadership roles in state and national hospice organizations. In the years prior to her death, she was called upon to help shape legislative views on end-of-life issues. And she was appointed to the prestigious Florida Panel on End of Life Care, established by the state legislature. Through her untiring efforts in the health care field, Ms. Labyak fostered national and international acclaim for Suncoast Hospice and the hospice movement in general. She was a past chair of the National Hospice Organization (now National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) where she also served on many committees and task forces. In addition, she was a past president of Florida Hospices, Inc.
A recipient of many awards for her efforts on behalf of dying people and their families, Ms. Labyak was named to the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York and was a recipient of the NHO's Heart of Hospice Award. Under her leadership, Suncoast Hospice was a recipient of the first ever Circle of Life Award from the American Hospital Association and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In April 2011, Ms. Labyak was presented with the NHF Healthcare Architect Award.
Brickson E. Diamond, NHF Chair, 2008-2010
Brickson Diamond joined the NHF Board in 2002, inspired by meeting with other Brown University alumni who are committed to the cause of hospice. As a child, Diamond was the primary caretaker for his mother during her illness. Having sustained her loss, he knows firsthand how children can thrive with the right kinds of support and understanding.
At the time of his board service, Diamond was a Senior Vice President of Capital Group Private Client Services. He earned an MBA from Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration and a BA from Brown.
A resident of Los Angeles, Diamond has taken active leadership in local, national and academic philanthropic circles. His efforts are focused on the advancement of communities of color, social change, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, issues affecting the LGBT community and the national hospice movement.
Diamond has spent almost 20 years serving in a variety of leadership capacities within the Brown University Alumni Association and the Brown University Annual Fund. He is a founding board member and chair of The Blackhouse Foundation, an organization focused on the creation of a networking and education space for African-American filmmakers at international film festivals. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council.
James R. Borynack, NHF Chair, 2007-2008
James Borynack is the chairman and chief executive of Wally Findlay Galleries International and currently owns galleries in New York, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and Barcelona. His tenure as was board chair was marked by significant fundraising for an initiative focused on hospice’s littlest patients.
Borynack’s interest in hospice stem from his first-hand experience, when his beloved mother was nearing the end of her life. He says, “Hospice allowed my mother to accept her death and allowed all of us to let her go. She was at peace at the end and for that we have been forever grateful.”
He was able to parlay his particular passion for services for children into successfully soliciting major gifts to NHF for a wide variety of pediatric projects. He led the way with a major investment of his own, for which we are deeply grateful, and which will have a lasting impact on the field of pediatric hospice and palliative care.
During his term, NHF’s annual gala was moved to coincide with NHPCO’s major Management and Leadership Conference, thus boosting attendance, increasing revenue, and decreasing costs. He also provided crucial stability during a time of staff leadership transition.
Ann Pizzuti, NHF Chair, 2005-2006
Ann Pizzuti, a longtime resident of Columbus, OH, has dedicated her life to significant community service work, focusing on end-of-life care, women’s issues, and other humanitarian causes. Prior to serving on NHF’s board, she was a board member and then chair of Hospice at Riverside and Grant, an innovative hospice program in central Ohio.
Pizzuti led the charge at NHF for the Trustees and staff to focus on building the endowment and during her tenure, NHF garnered substantial gifts earmarked for that purpose. A large portion of those funds came from a highly successful NHF fundraiser held in Columbus. Pizzuti played a key role in obtaining corporate support for that event, from previously untapped sources. “The aging Baby Boomer population gives NHF an important role in educating individuals about the impact hospice can make on patients and families. It is essential that NHF continue buildings its endowment.”
Norton Garfinkle served as the chair of NHF’s board and then its president during a time of transition. At the time of his service, he was chairman of the George Washington University Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. Previously, as chairman of the Lamaze Institute for Family Education, Garfinkle had played a leading role in the education of thousands of hospital professionals in providing families with the knowledge to manage the first stage of life.
He therefore found instant rapport with his neighbor Zach Morfogen when their conversations turned to hospice care, and how it helped families cope with all the medical, emotional, spiritual and practical challenges of the last stage of life. “Hospice care makes a priceless contribution,” Garfinkle says.
“For the patient, it offers the best quality medical care, best quality of life, and the support he or she needs to find a sense of meaning, to mend important relationships, and to say goodbye with the heart at peace. For the family, hospice extends their resources in an almost miraculous way, so they can give an awe-inspiring gift of care. For the community, hospice brings Americans together, supporting one another in life’s journey.”
Garfinkle led the Foundation in creating and distributing its award-winning Public Service Announcement Program to empower all Americans with the information necessary to secure the benefits of hospice care.
William (Bill) Griffith, NHF Chair, 2000-2002
In his career as a partner in the law firm of Reed Smith, LLP, Bill Griffith has handled legal affairs for many health care companies and he therefore understands the landscape of American health care better than most. Through his friendship with Zach Morfogen, Griffith gained an especially sharp appreciation for the contribution that hospice care makes to the well being of families and communities, and Griffith joined the NHF’s board, eventually becoming chair.
During his tenure, he said, “The hospice philosophy is based on the fundamental idea that each individual has the right to live with dignity and without pain during the last stages of life. The Foundation must work tirelessly until every American knows about the services that hospice provides – at a time in life when comfort, compassion, and dignity truly matter.”
In addition to informing ordinary Americans about the ways that hospice care equips families to face the challenges of life’s last stages, Griffith believed NHF should strengthen ties to key groups of professionals, such as clergy, caregivers, physicians, news media professionals, and attorneys. He mobilized the board to advance in those directions by forming outreach committees to the medical, legal, and spiritual communities, as well as to hospice caregivers and to news media representatives.
Stuart Lazarus, NHF Chair, 1996-1999
NHF’s second chair, Stuart Lazarus, has a professional background in developing educational materials. It was he who urged NHF to channel its energies primarily into informing the public about the hospice approach. Lazarus thought that the traveling exhibit “Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry” provided an ideal teaching opportunity – one that could capture the attention of a broad cross section of the public. He engineered a plan for each city that hosted the exhibit called the Hospice Community Council. These councils harnessed the energies of local health care organizations, employers, religious institutions, arts organizations, schools, and the media in generating public discourse around end-of-life experiences, medical ethics, art as social action, grief and loss, and hospice and spirituality.
Where Community Councils existed, they broadened the reach and impact of the exhibition, Lazarus recalls. “In Columbus Ohio, we measured the impact by having a public policy research firm track incoming phone calls to area hospice organizations. During the three months that the exhibition was in Columbus and the activities of the Community Council were at their height, incoming calls spiked 100%.” The more lasting impact of the exhibition, Lazarus remembers, was the way it revolutionized how the hospice community talked to the public at large. “When we spoke about the exhibition with a broad community audience –schools, human resource departments, churches, and other groups -- we realized we needed to have conversations that would feel uplifting rather than depressing. We learned to change our language and thought process, from talking about death and dying to living well and living fully at the end of life.”
Lazarus remains closely involved with NHF, as the founder and national program director for Run to Remember, NHF’s signature fundraising and race training program.
Zachary P. Morfogen, Founding Chair, 1992-1996