Published on November 14, 2019

Johnston Health Foundation honors its first chairman

John HobartEven at age 90, John Hobart of Smithfield still has the energy to deliver meals, participate in Rotary, and to deliver Christmas trees to needy families. It’s been his way of life. And service to humanity, he says, borrowing from the Jaycee creed, has been the best work of his life.

At its annual social on Oct. 24, the Johnston Health Foundation honored Hobart for his service to community. And former hospital administrator Leland Farnell, who helped launch the foundation in 1992, introduced Hobart to the well-attended event at the Country Club of Johnston County.

“He serves the community behind the scenes without seeking credit,” Farnell said. “He’s a Renaissance man whose interests have ranged from promoting the arts to leading the foundation to serving on the state board of history. He’s a man who serves without seeking credit.”

Prior to the foundation, there was no sure vehicle through which people could make donations to the county-owned hospital, Farnell said. And having a foundation in place was an important step in the hospital’s growth, and a way to engage and reflect the community’s support, as it sought out grants, he said.

Hobart got interested in health care after having heart-bypass surgery in 1988, and a cancer surgery a year later. So when the foundation board needed a chairman, it elected someone who was particularly passionate about providing the best possible care at the local hospital, Farnell said.

“And he didn’t just talk a good game,” he said. “He used the local hospital and local physicians, and he shared his positive experiences as a patient.”

As the first chairman, Hobart focused primarily on bringing in equipment and developing the first cardiopulmonary center, which was on the ground floor of the hospital. And Hobart remembers feeling especially proud on the day that the foundation presented a $50,000 check for the project.

Hobart and his wife, Frankie, are philanthropists. In 2006, the couple established a volunteer community-service award endowment with the North Carolina Community Foundation. And he gives an award every year honoring an employee of Davidson College, his alma mater.

Hobart was the dean of student affairs at Johnston Community College for 21 years before retiring in 1990. He said his interest in service began when he was a Boy Scout. “I’ve always been an advocate for community service,” he said. “And I so appreciate being honored by the foundation.”

Pictured: John Hobart (center) is flanked by Karen Lippitt, Hospital Foundation board member who presented his award, and Stewart McLeod, the board's chairman, at the annual social on Oct. 24.

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