In memoriam: Health care leader and USC Trustee William J. Schoen, 88
The philanthropist established the Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans Endowment, which provides financial support for veterans studying at the university.
William J. Schoen, a USC trustee and alumnus who successfully led a major health care organization for decades, died on Oct. 28 at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 88.
As president, CEO and chairman of Florida-based Health Management Associates, Schoen helped the corporation expand its reach to dozens of hospitals throughout the United States and grow into a Fortune 500 company. He served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2005 and became a life trustee in 2016.
“Bill Schoen was an accomplished health care executive and one of the Trojan Family’s most ardent supporters,” USC President Carol Folt said. “His generous contributions to the university, including establishing a scholarship program for our nation’s military veterans, will have an enduring impact. He will be deeply missed.”
“His colleagues on the board will always remember Bill with great fondness and respect,” USC Board of Trustees Chair Suzanne Nora Johnson said. “He stood as a powerful example of what service to community and country means to the Trojan Family.”
Established in 1986 by Schoen and his wife, Sharon, the Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans Endowment provides financial support for veterans studying at USC. In 2012, the Schoens gave a $10 million donation to bolster the program, significantly increasing the endowment
William J. Schoen: Served in Marines before attending USC
Schoen served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Korea from 1953 to 1956 before attending USC on a partial scholarship. While studying at the USC Marshall School of Business, from which he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1960 and an MBA in 1963, the former platoon sergeant worked full time to support his young family.
“Sharon and I believe the individuals who have served their country in the armed forces should be allowed the best university education — and they will find that at USC,” Schoen said in a USC Trojan Family Magazine story from 2016.
Through his foundation, he also supported other youth and family programs, most notably what is now known as the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative. His philanthropic support also earned him renown in his longtime home community of Naples.
A Southern California native, Schoen grew up in East Los Angeles and Arcadia during the Great Depression. His father sold produce, and Schoen joined him by selling flower seeds from a wagon and newspapers at the local racetrack. By his sophomore year, he had dropped out of high school to start a scrap metal business to support the family.
A few years later, he altered his birth certificate so he could join the Marines at age 17. He ultimately served eight years of active and reserve duty.
After leaving the military and completing his education at USC, Schoen held a variety of sales and executive positions in manufacturing and finance. He was marketing manager for Anchor Hocking Glass Co., vice president of sales and marketing for Obear-Nester Glass Co. and president of the Pierce Glass subsidiary of Indian Head Inc.
He later became president, CEO and chief operating officer of F&M Schaefer Corp., which owned and operated the Schaefer Brewing Co. He held that post from 1973 to 1981, then became chairman of Commerce National Bank in Naples.
By 1983, Schoen had joined the fledgling Health Management Associates as president, chief operating officer and director. He was named chairman and CEO in 1986. His decision to focus on acquiring and upgrading smaller hospitals in rural areas of the South proved to be a successful strategy. The company grew quickly and eventually became a multi-billion-dollar organization. Schoen stepped down as president and CEO of Health Management Associates in 2001 but continued as chairman until retiring in 2013.
Legacy of service: William J. Schoen
In addition to his service on the USC Board of Trustees, Schoen sat on the board’s finance committee, the USC Health System Board and the USC Marshall Board of Leaders. He delivered remarks to the graduating class of USC Marshall as commencement speaker in 1995 and received the Marshall Alumni Award for Business Excellence the following year. In 2016, Schoen received the university’s highest alumni honor, the Asa V. Call Alumni Achievement Award, in recognition of his achievements and support of USC.
“I feel very strongly that everything I have worked for or earned is basically leased to me,” he told USC Trojan Family Magazine in a 2016 story about the award. “I don’t own them. They’re leased to me by the next generation, and my proposition in life has been to assist other people who are not as fortunate.”
Schoen is survived by his wife, Sharon, and four children: Kathryn, Karen, Kristy and William Jr.