Nicholas Wolter ’69 P97 P03

11 September 2018

Class: 1969

Major: English

Residence: Livingston, MT

Deceased: September 7, 2018

Alumni survivors: Ms. Holly B. Bowen-Bailey ’91 (Uncle), Mrs. Megan B. Zatz ’97 (Child), Mr. Keith D. Wolter ’03 (Child)

Just discovered our Carleton Classmate Nick Wolter died recently —Here is the obit from Billings Montana.

Longtime Billings Clinic leader Nick Wolter dies at 70

Keith Wolter chuckles when remembers his dad, Nicholas Wolter, sitting in his armchair in his Paradise Valley home dispensing wisdom. 

“He could pack a lot of wisdom into a few short words,” added Nicholas Wolter’s daughter Megan Zatz. 

“He was that person for a lot of people,” Keith Wolter said. 

Nicholas Wolter, 70, died Friday at his home in Pray, south of Livingston. A St. Paul, Minnesota, native, Wolter moved to Billings after completing medical school in New York and Michigan and set up a practice with Billings Clinic in 1982. 

He flourished there and ended up serving as the Clinic’s first director of critical care and later as director of respiratory therapy. Those leadership roles led him to the Clinic’s executive committee, where he served as chairman. There, he played a key role in the Clinic’s merger with Deaconess Medical Center in 1993.

By 1997, Wolter was leading Billings Clinic as CEO, a role he kept until his retirement in 2017. It was a full career marked by many notable accomplishments. 

Still, “He was just our dad,” Zatz said.

“He had a whole other side to him,” said his daughter Ellen Wolter. 

Nicholas Wolter was an English major in college in the 1970s and, after graduation, went on to teach English and history at a private school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. That pushed him to go back to school for a master’s degree in American Culture and finally going on to medical school at the University of Michigan. 

Even after becoming a doctor, he made sure music, theater, art and literature still played an enormous role in his life. He used to give his doctors mix CDs with collections of songs he was enjoying at the time. He often encouraged his doctors to do the same and share with him the music that moved them. 

Billings Clinic CEO Dr. Nicholas Wolter puts a white coat on resident Felipe Martignoni during a ceremony in June 2016. Wolter began at Billings Clinic, before it merged with Deaconess Medical Center, as a physician in 1982. CASEY PAGE, Billings Gazette

“Periodically, he’d send (us) little poems,” Keith Wolter said, either compositions he had written or lines from someone else that impacted him. 

Nicholas Wolter was an enthusiastic fly fisherman and once gave his grandson, Zatz’s son, a collection of writings by Montana authors about fly fishing.

“He had a really thoughtful way about him,” Zatz said. 

Dr. Randall Gibb, Billings Clinic CEO, was a physician and the hospital’s chief medical officer when Wolter announced his retirement. Gibb had worked closely with Wolter and became his successor.  

What always impressed Gibb was Wolter’s focus on the role of physicians and the importance of the patient, even as he left daily practice to take on the role of administrator. 

“He was always a physician first,” Gibb said. And he prioritized people, “keeping patients central” to the mission of the hospital. 

That focus on physicians and patients, and Billings’ location on the edge of the Great Plains, instilled in Wolter a deep devotion to rural medicine and a desire to invest resources and create partnerships to bolster it. 

Wolter and his team at the hospital spent five years working to sell the Helmsley Charitable Trust on the idea of establishing an internal medicine residency at the Clinic. It worked and the residency program was announced in 2014. 

Attracting quality medical professionals to some of the more remote parts of Eastern Montana has long been a struggle and Wolter believed that if more doctors trained here they would stay here to practice medicine.

In the end it worked. Six of the eight residents who graduated from the program in 2017 stayed in the region. 

Its success led the Helmsley Charitable Trust to invest in Billings Clinic again this year and set up a psychiatric residency program at the hospital, which would this time bring mental health professionals to rural Montana. 

“He really laid the foundational elements” of the Clinic’s mission, Gibb said. 

Wolter was humble about his successes at the hospital. He often attributed the Clinic’s recognition and achievements to the doctors and staff working around him. 

“He really loved the people at the Clinic,” Ellen Wolter said. “I know he’s missed being side by side with them.”

Zatz talked about how much there was to the man. His love of people, of the arts, of medicine and his desire to ensure that quality health care is available in rural Montana combined to create a truly remarkable person. 

“All sides of him were pretty cool,” she said. “We were lucky to have him as a dad.”
Submitted by Tom Weaver

 

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  • 2018-09-17 16:39:56
    Tom Weaver

    Just discovered our Carleton Classmate Nick Wolter died recently ---Here is the obit from Billings Montana.

    Longtime Billings Clinic leader Nick Wolter dies at 70

    Keith Wolter chuckles when remembers his dad, Nicholas Wolter, sitting in his armchair in his Paradise Valley home dispensing wisdom. 

    "He could pack a lot of wisdom into a few short words," added Nicholas Wolter's daughter Megan Zatz. 

    "He was that person for a lot of people," Keith Wolter said. 

    Nicholas Wolter, 70, died Friday at his home in Pray, south of Livingston. A St. Paul, Minnesota, native, Wolter moved to Billings after completing medical school in New York and Michigan and set up a practice with Billings Clinic in 1982. 

    He flourished there and ended up serving as the Clinic's first director of critical care and later as director of respiratory therapy. Those leadership roles led him to the Clinic's executive committee, where he served as chairman. There, he played a key role in the Clinic's merger with Deaconess Medical Center in 1993.

    By 1997, Wolter was leading Billings Clinic as CEO, a role he kept until his retirement in 2017. It was a full career marked by many notable accomplishments. 

    Still, "He was just our dad," Zatz said.

    "He had a whole other side to him," said his daughter Ellen Wolter. 

    Nicholas Wolter was an English major in college in the 1970s and, after graduation, went on to teach English and history at a private school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. That pushed him to go back to school for a master's degree in American Culture and finally going on to medical school at the University of Michigan. 

    Even after becoming a doctor, he made sure music, theater, art and literature still played an enormous role in his life. He used to give his doctors mix CDs with collections of songs he was enjoying at the time. He often encouraged his doctors to do the same and share with him the music that moved them. 

    +1  Billings Clinic CEO Dr. Nicholas Wolter puts a white coat on resident Felipe Martignoni during a ceremony in June 2016. Wolter began at Billings Clinic, before it merged with Deaconess Medical Center, as a physician in 1982. CASEY PAGE, Billings Gazette

    "Periodically, he'd send (us) little poems," Keith Wolter said, either compositions he had written or lines from someone else that impacted him. 

    Nicholas Wolter was an enthusiastic fly fisherman and once gave his grandson, Zatz's son, a collection of writings by Montana authors about fly fishing.

    "He had a really thoughtful way about him," Zatz said. 

    Dr. Randall Gibb, Billings Clinic CEO, was a physician and the hospital's chief medical officer when Wolter announced his retirement. Gibb had worked closely with Wolter and became his successor.  

    What always impressed Gibb was Wolter's focus on the role of physicians and the importance of the patient, even as he left daily practice to take on the role of administrator. 

    "He was always a physician first," Gibb said. And he prioritized people, "keeping patients central" to the mission of the hospital. 

    That focus on physicians and patients, and Billings' location on the edge of the Great Plains, instilled in Wolter a deep devotion to rural medicine and a desire to invest resources and create partnerships to bolster it. 

    Wolter and his team at the hospital spent five years working to sell the Helmsley Charitable Trust on the idea of establishing an internal medicine residency at the Clinic. It worked and the residency program was announced in 2014. 

    Attracting quality medical professionals to some of the more remote parts of Eastern Montana has long been a struggle and Wolter believed that if more doctors trained here they would stay here to practice medicine.

    In the end it worked. Six of the eight residents who graduated from the program in 2017 stayed in the region. 

    Its success led the Helmsley Charitable Trust to invest in Billings Clinic again this year and set up a psychiatric residency program at the hospital, which would this time bring mental health professionals to rural Montana. 

    "He really laid the foundational elements" of the Clinic's mission, Gibb said. 

    Wolter was humble about his successes at the hospital. He often attributed the Clinic's recognition and achievements to the doctors and staff working around him. 

    "He really loved the people at the Clinic," Ellen Wolter said. "I know he's missed being side by side with them."

    Zatz talked about how much there was to the man. His love of people, of the arts, of medicine and his desire to ensure that quality health care is available in rural Montana combined to create a truly remarkable person. 

    "All sides of him were pretty cool," she said. "We were lucky to have him as a dad."

  • 2018-09-17 16:43:58
    Tom Weaver

    Another Obit
    https://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/nicholas-john-wolter-m-d/article_4822235a-78b9-5a87-812a-e3013f9bf860.html
    Nicholas John Wolter, M.D.

    Sep 10, 2018

    PRAY — Nicholas John Wolter, M.D., 70, of Pray, Montana, died Sept. 7, 2018, at his home in Paradise Valley. Nick was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1947, the eldest child of five children. 
    Nick majored in English at Carleton College and through his studies gained a deep appreciation for literature, art, film, and music. His appreciation for the arts continued throughout his life. After college, Nick taught English and history at a private school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and then enrolled at the University of Michigan where he earned a master’s degree in American Culture. Ultimately, Nick went on to medical school at the University of Michigan and completed Internal Medicine and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine fellowships at Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, New York, and at the University of Michigan. 
    Upon graduation, Nick accepted a job opportunity with Billings Clinic, largely due to the multi-specialty group practice structure of the clinic. Once at the Clinic, Nick’s medical practice flourished.  He became the first medical director of Critical Care for the Clinic, expanded services for patients with Cystic Fibrosis, and became Director of Respiratory Therapy. He also volunteered his medical expertise at free migrant worker clinics in the Billings area. Nick treasured the close connections he developed with his patients and their families.
    Nick never aspired to become a clinic and hospital administrator, but became chair of the Clinic’s Executive Committee, and ultimately, played a key role in the integration of Billings Clinic and Deaconess Medical Center in the early 1990’s. The merger of Billings Clinic and Deaconess Medical Center of Billings in 1993 was one of the first mergers in that era of formally merging a physician multispecialty group practice and a not-for-profit community governed hospital.
    Nick served as chief executive officer at the Billings Clinic from 1997 to 2017. While CEO he developed a vision to perform at best in nation levels in patient safety, quality, and service. During his tenure, the Billings Clinic became the largest healthcare organization in Montana. Billings Clinic grew to manage eleven critical access hospitals, five of which have joined the organization in formal governance relationships. Under his visionary leadership, Billings Clinic also developed a major priority to support outstanding rural health care, early adopter approaches to behavioral and mental health care delivery, incorporating evidence-based design and healing environment principles into facility design, and the use of complexity concepts such as positive deviance and relational coordination to improve safety performance and team performance. Billings Clinic also led advances in medical education and leadership programs for physicians, nurses, other professionals and staff. Billings Clinic launched the first Internal Medicine Residency in Montana in 2014 with a focus on general adult medicine including practice in rural communities. During Nick’s tenure, numerous third-party recognition and honors in these areas were received by Billings Clinic. Nick was extremely proud to work alongside each and every Billings Clinic employee over his 35 years of employment there. 
    Nick’s impact extended far beyond Montana. He was a former member of the board of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and of the American Medical Group Association (AMGA). He served two terms as a commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), in addition to twice serving as chair of the board of the Montana Hospital Association. In 2004, Nick was recognized by the Medical Group Management Association as Physician Executive of the Year. He was named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2010 and 2011, and by Modern Physicians as one of the Most Influential Physicians in Healthcare in 2011 and 2012. In May 2018, Nick received the Justin Ford Kimball Innovators Award from the American Hospital Association (AHA) for his innovative work to establish Billings Clinic as an integrated physician-led, multi-specialty group practice focused on patient safety, quality, and service. 
    Nick is survived by the many people who loved him and laughed with him, including his children, Megan (Ben) Zatz, Ellen (Nate Knoernschild) Wolter, Keith (Teresa Knoedler) Wolter, and Annie (Chris) Hondorf; his grandchildren, Zach, Hannah, and Oliver Zatz; Isaac, Charlotte, and May Knoernschild; Bergen and Iris Wolter; and Nola Hondorf. He is survived by his sister, Martha Eaton, and also by Marcia Britton, Rose Brown, and LaToya Kirkland and many other beloved extended family, including the Mikkelsens, the Brittons, the Wolters, the Andersons, and the Moss’. Nick was preceded in death by his brothers, Carl, Paul, and Mark Wolter; mother, Marjorie (Mikkelsen) Douglass, father, Richard Wolter, and step-father, Jesse Douglass. 
    Nick was a kind, gentle, and unforgettable father, friend, and advisor to so many. Nick immeasurably impacted the lives of those who loved him. He guided and cared for his family and friends with fierce devotion, wisdom, and humor. He approached the world with his unassuming curiosity and a twinkle in his eye. With Nick’s passing, we celebrate his love of art, literature, and loud, loud music. His truly original spirit will live on in all who were lucky enough to know him. 
    In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to any of the following funds at the Billings Clinic Foundation: Healing Environment, Cystic Fibrosis, Internal Medicine Residency Endowment, or the Psychiatric Residency Endowment. 
    A celebration of Nick’s life will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Billings Clinic Commons (801 North 29th Street, Billings, MT 59101.)
    “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” The Rolling Stones.
    Online condolences may be shared at Franzen-Davis.com.
     

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