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A conversation with Mark Schulte

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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If you don’t see Mark Schulte at Wichita Presbyterian Manor playing piano for the residents, you may spot him playing guitar or keyboard at a bar.

Schulte is executive director of Wichita Presbyterian Manor, but he’s also a musician who grew up playing all genres, including big band, classic rock and country.

He grew up in a musical family – his parents played in a big band, his father was a music teacher, and some of his siblings are music teachers.

“I was kind of the chronic screw-up musically in my family,” Schulte says jokingly. “I didn’t take lessons but taught myself to play the piano. While they were learning to read notes I played by ear mostly, and I learned to play the guitar and bass guitar and the mandolin and banjo.”

“I don’t know that I play anything well, but I play a lot of instruments because I love music and have a real passion for music and grew up around it.”

Last week, Schulte marked two years with Presbyterian Manor. Previously, he worked with Good Samaritan Society, a senior services group in Ellis. He also spent years helping developmentally disabled adults and children.

A native of Victoria, which is near Hays, Schulte attended Marymount College in Salina and Fort Hays State University, where he studied business administration.

He owns 40 acres north of Wichita where he raises Scottish Highland cattle and enjoys wood-working – he built his own house in western Kansas and has also made instruments.

What brought you to Wichita?

I didn’t really ever plan to leave (Good Samaritan) but it was kind of an unexpected phone call from our vice president of operations at Presbyterian Manor who called one day and said he had a position open. It just sounded like it was a good fit and it has been.

I had a conversation with my previous boss about going to another community within the company I was working with. A couple of times he asked me to go to a community and then at the last minute he’d ask me to stay.

At one point I half jokingly said, “How bad do I have to screw up to be able to leave?” And his answer to me was, “God will let us know when it’s time for you to go.”

What was odd was that the call I got from Presbyterian Manor came 15 minutes later after our conversation. ... Someone asked me who was on the phone and, I said, “I think it was God.”

What are some of the biggest challenges for senior residences?

I think we’re very much at the beginning of the biggest influx of the baby boomers. So I think adjusting our product mix to accommodating those baby boomers in some ways I think there is so much construction going on you wonder if it’s too much or enough, but I think there are some unknowns on how quickly those baby boomers will be joining those senior communities and at what level of care.

You’re currently working on a $40 million construction project at Wichita Presbyterian Manor. When are you hoping to have it completed?

We hope to be moving into our skilled nursing and assisted living in September 2014. After that we will begin construction of our new 90 apartments that will be independent living and the projected date for completion of that is fall 2015.

Have amenities in senior living changed a lot over the years?

Our new building will have a pub. There is a swimming pool and a fitness center. From the health care skilled nursing aspect of it, if you go back even 10 years ago, it was very unlikely to find private rooms. Virtually every room we have is going to be a private room in the new building. That’s what the market is demanding. ... It’s a much more educated and discriminating consumer than it was even 10 years ago.

What are some of your goals moving forward?

A lot of what we’re doing is to bring us to the next level to have us meet the needs of the baby boomers we’re going to see. My goal is to create a service model in the new building that is going to give the residents the care they want. ... How do we fill those lives and make them as active and full as we can?

Our challenge will be getting a team put together and really looking at resident-centered care and personal preferences. What are things that are highly important and non-negotiable? What’s something I can live without? We have to identify those things for all of our residents. Certainly on those non-negotiables, we have to be prepared to provide or they’re going to choose another provider that will.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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