As he reflected recently, Tom Zavitz talked about how guiding the administrative transfer of the Michigan State University/Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies into the new medical school in 2012 was an immense challenge.
The work, though, Zavitz said, is something he counts as his biggest achievement as he gets set to retire after nearly 17 years at WMed.
“I think everybody did a great job of creating the platform for the medical school and I don’t think the outside world has any idea of the details that had to come together to get this done,” he said. “Guiding one organization and assimilating into the culture of a new organization, and keeping it all together Is a lot of work, but it’s also my greatest sense of accomplishment that I was able to do that.”
Zavitz, whose last day on the job is Friday, February 17, came to WMed in 2000 when he was hired as the chief operating officer at MSU/KCMS. After the transition to WMed in 2012, he became the medical school’s associate dean for administration and finance.
His time at the medical school came after successful stints in finance and accounting roles at Kellogg’s in his hometown of Battle Creek and the Family Health Center in both Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Zavitz’s career at Kellogg’s began in 1981 and in the late 1980s, he spent three years in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he was tasked with being part of the startup team to create a Pop-Tarts and Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars factory from scratch.
As he gets set to enjoy retirement, Zavitz said he has jokingly told people that WMed “is my last startup.”
“Every startup has its blips and twists and turns but in spite of that I think the organization has come a long way in a very short period of time and I’m proud of what I could do to help make that happen,” Zavitz said.
As the medical school’s associate dean for administration and finance, Zavitz was charged with the administration of WMed’s executive office and served as compliance officer. He also oversaw contracts, clinical business services and several departments, including accounting and finance, information technology, facilities, library, and human resources.
Even with the long list of responsibilities that came with his role, Zavitz said his work was rewarding and meaningful, and challenging. He credits that, he said, to the many great relationships he formed throughout the years with WMed employees, vendors and leaders at Kalamazoo’s two hospitals, among others.
He also takes pride, he said, in the fact that he never “blew a budget” during his time at KCMS and WMed.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve always tried to do is be a straight shooter,” Zavitz said. “In this job you have to be the beacon of integrity … You’re faced with a lot of decisions where you’re asked what’s the right thing to do and it’s not always evident, you have to figure it out.”
As he leaves WMed, Zavitz said he will miss “all of the people” he’s been fortunate enough to work with during his time at the medical school.
“I’ve worked with a lot of good people,” he said. “In many ways, they’ve made me look pretty good.”
In making the decision to call it a career, Zavitz said he and his wife were ready to finally set their sights on enjoying things they have put on hold over the years as they pursued their careers, raised their children and, later, cared for their parents.
Zavitz’s wife is set to retire from Gull Lake Community Schools in June and the couple has plans to travel to the Upper Peninsula, which Zavitz said is their “happy place,” and visit other sights in the U.S. like the Grand Canyon.
“You don’t know what the future holds,” Zavitz said. “We like to be outdoors, we like to camp, I like to backpack. There are a lot of places in the U.S. we haven’t seen yet so we want to travel to those places.”
As he awaits his wife’s retirement this summer, Zavitz said he plans to bide his time taking care of a honey-do list of projects that is “a mile long.” He said he also wants to delve more into woodworking, a hobby that, up to this point, he has only “dabbled in.”
“I like doing handy things,” Zavitz said. “I’m going to do some remodeling in our house.”