Diakon president/CEO Mark Pile receives ‘Leadership Excellence’ award

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Tuesday July 7, 2020)

Mark T. Pile, president/CEO of the Diakon family of organizations, recently received the Leadership Excellence Award in the Central Penn Business Journal’s annual Nonprofit Innovation Awards.

He was among seven finalists for the award, which was to be presented in March, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards event was held virtually in mid-June.

“I am really honored to have received the award,” Pile says. “My parents taught us always to lead a life of service and my brothers and I all did exactly that in our careers.”

The award is given for significant contributions in multiple areas of nonprofit operations, including response and adaptation to a changing society; collaboration with other organizations, boards of directors, staff and other key partners; enhanced service delivery; innovative thinking; and increased organizational transparency and accountability.

Pile has served as president and CEO of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries and several “sister” organizations since Jan. 1, 2010. Before that, he was executive vice president/chief operating officer of Diakon, a role he held from Diakon’s creation on Jan. 1, 2000, through 2009. Diakon resulted from the affiliation and later merger of Tressler Lutheran Services and Lutheran Services Northeast; Pile served as vice president/chief operating officer of Lutheran Services Northeast from 1997 to 1999.

The award nomination noted that “in 2018, Diakon celebrated the 150th anniversary of the organization’s original founding as the Tressler Orphans Home in Loysville, Perry County, and later The Lutheran Home at Topton. That history, which spanned world wars, significant economic upheavals and changing social norms, speaks to the organization’s ability to respond to—and survive in—change. Mark Pile, as a key leader during the current, sometimes-challenging iteration of that long history, has been pivotal in ensuring continuation of Diakon’s legacy of service to people in need.

“Bringing together two large organizations, both with long and proud histories, is never easy, particularly when corporate cultures vary, but Mark oversaw the successful integration ... by careful attention and sensitivity to the differences in those cultures and methods of service; moreover, he focused on building a ‘third’ culture—that of Diakon—which honored the traditions of the past but also transcended those approaches and brands. He helped staff members to set new directions by emphasizing a unified vision that focused, first, on growth in both senior living services and programs for children and families and, second, on seeking new or additional ways to serve even more people of all ages.”

Among key steps then and through the present, Pile:

  • Led organizational planning and structure development for the new Diakon organization, overseeing implementation of the business plan he crafted.
  • Worked in conjunction with the then-president/CEO, whom he succeeded in 2010, to implement procedures and processes (including transitioning into use of the Carver—or policy—model of board governance) for several new or re-constituted boards of directors, with a focus on achieving the organizational goals monitored by those boards.
  • Helped to select and then installed and championed utilization of a new strategic management system that focused on improved business and service outcomes, which might not otherwise have been attainable.
  • Oversaw a task force, constituted in the first years following the merger, to develop a financial turn-around plan, moving the organization from a $14 million deficit in 2001 to a $2.7 million surplus the next year. Similarly, he led the sometimes-challenging but necessary operational initiatives following the nation’s 2008 financial crisis, efforts that produced a $10.6 million annual positive impact.
  • Played a key operational role in the mid-2000s transition of nine Diakon senior living communities to another health-care provider; this move was undertaken because Diakon did not have the capital to maintain nearly two dozen large senior living communities. The successful completion of the sale of these campuses resulted in Diakon’s ability to infuse millions of dollars into the remaining communities, helping them to remain market leaders. Moreover, the transition was accomplished with careful attention to its impact on the staff and residents moving to the new provider. Diakon, in fact, continued for many years to pay personal care and independent-living benevolent care for residents receiving such subsidies at the time of the sale. This step was taken in alignment with Diakon’s overall mission to serve people with limited financial resources.
  • Helped to spearhead a later organizational restructure, creating Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries, a separate entity housing all social services for children, youths, families and communities, complete with its own board of directors. With extensive support from other key staff members, this change resulted in those community-based programs becoming self-sustaining for the first time in decades. Further, the step allowed previous financial subsidies to be used for other purposes including exploration of programming related to unmet community needs.
  • Championed an organizational task force to improve recruitment and reduce employee turnover and nursing-agency usage, while working extensively with Diakon’s Human Resources office to develop effective strategies to retain staff.
  • Oversaw or promoted various initiatives to expand services or reconfigure them to meet changing demands. As just one example, Diakon completely transformed its youth-focused Wilderness Center in Boiling Springs from a year-round residential campus to a locus for various community-based youth programs including alternative education for students who do not thrive in a typical school setting and a unique native-plant nursery (which also provides vocational training for youths).

As part of the nomination, a board member noted: “I watched Mark Pile take the reins of the Diakon organization and make careful adjustments that focused its services on what we would call its core ministries. This process was deliberative and while focused on coping with the financial challenges that most non-profit social service organizations experience today, it always kept those we serve at the forefront. This focus on the well-being of others is a hallmark of Mark’s tenure as Diakon CEO, as well as during his earlier work as chief operating officer.”

Mark T. Pile, MSHA, MSW, Diakon president/CEO

Another board member, who served with the organization even before the Diakon merger, wrote that “Mark is personally committed to and has established a culture of transparency that pervades Diakon and informs its internal and external interactions. This culture is expressed through Mark’s frequent reporting to the boards about compliance or noncompliance with corporate policies and goals, accompanied as necessary by remediation plans to address noncompliance, a system Mark himself designed and implemented.”

He adds that “subject to normal concerns about protection of confidential information, Diakon ensures that all constituencies are informed about Diakon and its various relationships to avoid surprises, pleasant or unpleasant. Moreover, under Mark’s leadership, Diakon has maintained a robust program of multi-channel communications” addressing the interests and concerns of such audiences as staff, volunteers, partners, vendors, residents, clients, donors and the community.

Another board member noted that “Mark is always concerned about people and mission and is willing to listen to others’ concerns, weighing his own opinions in light of what others bring to the table. When he expresses concern for someone, he truly is concerned, demonstrating that not only through his demeanor, but also his behavior. In such ways, Mark truly embodies on a personal level the mission of Diakon.”

And a colleague added that, “I have always thought that Mark’s strength is his humility and willingness to let people do their jobs. His style is conducive to high-performing individuals who are accountable for their results. That style has served the organization extremely well. Moreover, while I appreciate Mark for many reasons, I especially admire his humble, self-deprecating and down-to-earth style,” key to the manner in which he has created and maintains very positive relationships with staff members throughout the organization, his direct reports and, especially, with senior living community residents, board members, volunteers, donors and community leaders.

Before joining Diakon or its predecessor organizations, Pile served as vice president of Somerset Hospital, Somerset, Pennsylvania, for nearly 10 years and, before that, as chief executive officer of Twin Lakes Center, a nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment service consisting of inpatient beds, outpatient offices and prevention/education services. He was a founder of the Somerset Area Food Pantry and a former board member of Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries, serving as board vice-chair.

A Fellow with the American College of Health Care Executives and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers, Pile is a 1974 graduate of Lycoming College. He holds a Master of Science in Social Work degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in health administration from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. In 2013, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Social Work Practice from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, one of the top-ranked social-work schools in the U.S.

For further information, please contact:
William Swanger, M.A., APR, Fellow PRSA 
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries & Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries
(717) 579-9913