Steve Fromm’s journey to long-term care administrator and board chairman of the American College of Health Care Administrators is one that has crisscrossed oceans and states.
Fromm was born in Germany while his father, a surgeon, was stationed there with the military. After time spent in Michigan, the family — Fromm is the second oldest of five children — moved to the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
They stayed there through what Fromm calls his formative years, from age 5 to just before his 16th birthday. Then the family moved to Dalton, GA.
He went on to college at Clemson University — the recent national football champs, he’s quick to note — where he began studying architecture before switching to sociology and social work. Upon graduating, he got married and took a job with the North American Mission Board, a move spurred by his lifelong involvement with the Southern Baptist church.
His mission work took him to assist churches in Colorado and New York before returning to Puerto Rico to volunteer on a college campus just two miles from where he grew up. His oldest son was born in Puerto Rico, but the family, which would in time include seven children, eventually left so Fromm could pursue master’s degrees in social work and religious education.
The jump from the Mission Board to long-term care was a “natural fit,” Fromm says, since it allowed him to use his social work background to help others.
“The core values of why I was doing mission work were the same thing. I viewed my transition to LTC as a change in the focus of my mission work,” he explains.
Fromm, 53, made the leap from director of social services to administrator in 2003, taking a position at a facility in Dalton to be closer to his parents. Since then, he has also made stops in North Carolina and Atlanta to help turn around struggling facilities.
“The first thing is to figure out what they’re doing right, and make sure you look at things through a new lens,” Fromm said. “I try and change the culture of that facility, empowering them to take risks.”
Colleagues and fellow members of the American College of Health Care Administrators have noticed.
“Steve brings a very balanced, methodical, inclusive type of leadership where he’s looking to bring out the thoughts of the different board members,” says Rudy Michalek, at-large director for the ACHCA board. “He wants to get everything on the table.”
Fromm and his wife of nearly 32 years, Corinna, live on a “mini farm,” in Calhoun, GA, complete with chickens, a horse, two dogs and five cats. He likes to spend free time with his children, who range in age from 16 to 30.
“He jokingly says that everything he needs to know about ‘people management’ he learned from parenting,” says Lorraine Tilstra, an administrator and mentee of Fromm’s.
A big baseball fan — the Colorado Rockies are his favorite — Fromm also keeps involved with his church, fostering the faith the self-proclaimed introvert says helped him leave his “comfort zone” to meet residents’ needs.
“I think that comes from my belief that we’re where God wants you to be,” he says. “It’s not about what I can do. It’s what God can do through me.”