A trailblazing entrepreneur, philanthropist, and internationally recognized patient advocate, Mrs. Adler and her husband helped launch the Nursing White Coat Ceremony
As a Gold Foundation Trustee for nearly 30 years, entrepreneur and philanthropist Elaine Adler saw the world as a place for advancing the common good. When others saw obstacles as impossible, Mrs. Adler very often successfully persevered. She believed that one could make a beautiful life out of tragedy or challenge. She passed away recently at the age of 95, and she leaves behind an immense legacy of humanism.
Elaine and her husband, Mike, founded Myron Manufacturing Corp. in Maywood, NJ. The company employed 14,000 employees in more than 10 countries at its peak, selling personalized business gifts and advertising specialties. Mrs. Adler was a force of good for dozens of community and nonprofit organizations, serving on boards and providing support through her wisdom, advocacy, and funds. She and Mike also founded the Adler Aphasia Center, a groundbreaking and humanistic community and research hub, after Mike suffered a severe stroke and aphasia.
When The Arnold P. Gold Foundation was created by her dear friends Drs. Arnold and Sandra Gold, Elaine was there from the beginning with her support. In 1996, she became a Trustee. Over the nearly three decades on the Gold Foundation Board, Mrs. Adler shared her insights, infectious energy, proactive business spirit, and generous gifts to forward the mission of humanism in healthcare for all.
In 2019, the Gold Foundation awarded Mrs. Adler the National Humanism in Medicine Medal for her far-reaching impact. Dr. Sandra Gold noted how unique her friend Elaine was in her remarks: “When Elaine sees someone or an institution in need, she does not, as it is said, ‘avert her eyes.’ No person or charity is invisible to Elaine. Most often she does not have to be asked for help. Rather, she reaches and stretches out her hand, offering help prior to being asked.”
Mrs. Adler’s forever legacy at the Gold Foundation arose from her interest in nursing. Her and Mike’s generosity supported the 2014 Gold Foundation/AACN launch of Nursing White Coat Ceremonies.
“Elaine was an extraordinary force for humanism in healthcare, and we were so fortunate to have her on the Gold Foundation Board for nearly three decades,” said Richard C. Sheerr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Gold Foundation. “Along with her husband, Mike, Elaine’s transformational support brought the Nursing White Coat Ceremony to thousands of nursing students and helped expand the Gold Foundation’s mission of humanistic care for all. We mourn the tremendous loss of a unique champion of humanism. Our deepest condolences go out to Elaine’s family and friends.”
Expanding the circle of caring to nurses
The Adlers’ passion for nursing arose in part from their own personal experience with nurses starting in 1993, when Mike suffered a stroke become aphasic. Aphasia, a language disorder that typically arises from a brain injury, can affect the ability to speak, understand spoken language, read, and write.
“While doctors are wonderful, it’s the nurse who really takes care of the patient hour after hour, day after day. This came to life for me when Mike became so ill that I could not take care of him by myself,” Mrs. Adler said in 2019, when she received the National Humanism in Medicine Medal.
One particular nurse, Val, helped Mike find his words and his healing. The two men bonded, and Val became an indispensable part of Mike’s journey.
Elaine, too, was greatly supported by Val’s care. “I don’t know what I would have done without Val,” she said.
As always, the Adlers were inspired to expand their gratitude into action. Their generous support of nursing contributed to a bold new partnership, launched in 2014, between the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Gold Foundation. The collaboration introduced Gold’s signature White Coat Ceremonies to accredited colleges of nursing.
This ritual had long been a rite of passage for students entering medical school, emphasizing the importance of compassion at a critical point in their education, and would now be presented at nursing schools. Since 2014, more than 400 nursing colleges have received funding to support their first ceremony through the Gold Foundation.
Dr. Deborah Trautman, President and CEO of the AACN, spoke about the impact of their efforts in her 2019 remarks at the Annual Gala celebrating Mrs. Adler: “Nursing will be forever grateful to Elaine Adler for her commitment to shaping the future of healthcare and for elevating the patient care experience to be the best it could be through humanism.”
In addition to the AACN-Gold partnership, Elaine and Mike donated $2 million in 2010 to build the Adler Center for Nursing Excellence building at Ramapo College, providing a permanent home for their nursing school. The school ensured that nursing students would be trained with state-of-the-art facilities that include simulation rooms, computer labs, a nursing skills lab, and general purpose classrooms. The Ramapo College nursing program remains highly acclaimed and among the leading programs in the country.
Transforming the world of aphasia healing
The Adlers made another extraordinary impact on humanism in healthcare in their formation of the Adler Aphasia Center.
When Mike suffered his stroke and aphasia, the landscape of care was vastly different. There were no appropriate long-term therapeutic options, but Elaine saw opportunity.
The Adlers learned that communication and progress were still possible with aphasia. “We have to help those who are not as fortunate as we,” Elaine recalled Mike saying.
After a worldwide search with Dr. Audrey Holland, during which they looked at many diverse treatments, Elaine and Mike launched the innovative Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, NJ, in 2003. The center offered low-cost, long-term therapeutic care for stroke and brain injury survivors who have aphasia.
Today, the center has received numerous awards and is considered a foremost leader in long-term aphasia rehabilitation and research. It has two more full-service centers, one in West Orange and another in Toms River; seven Aphasia Communication Groups located throughout NJ; and the Adler Aphasia Center at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem.
Due in large part to the innovations and tireless efforts of the Adler Aphasia Center, more than 2 million stroke and brain injury survivors with aphasia and their loved ones have been given the resources and tools for living productive and independent lives. The center provides a unique group treatment program to help people develop skills and strategies to enhance their quality of life after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia. It also offers support for family members and caregivers.
Leadership across the healthcare community and beyond
Elaine had a “Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves” mantra. A lightning bolt of creativity and warm personability, she was a passionate leader for the aphasia community. As a member of the NJ State Aphasia Task Force and countless advocacy groups, she often appeared in the media serving as a proud representative of people and families living with aphasia.
Elaine committed herself to state and national advocacy for aphasia rehabilitation. Along with Mike, she was the life force behind the creation of Aphasia Access, an international community of aphasia professionals who are concentrating their efforts on providing communication access for those affected by aphasia.
In 2017, two years after Mike’s passing, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Mike Adler Aphasia Task Force Law, which made New Jersey the first state in the country to enact legislation that would increase the provision of support services to people with aphasia.
In addition to her aphasia leadership and Gold Board membership, Mrs. Adler served on the boards of numerous organizations. They included Ramapo College of NJ where she served on the Board of Governors, Jewish Home and Rehabilitation Center in Rockleigh, NJ, and Bergen County’s Children’s Aid and Family Services. Elaine was also a founding board member of Gilda’s Club of northern NJ and the Center for Interreligious Understanding.
Elaine and Mike were loving parents to four children and their spouses, William and Leslie, Richard and Haekyung, James and Dana, and Marie and Saul. The Adlers taught their children the meaning of serving others through philanthropy and worthwhile causes. In addition to her children, she is survived by 11 grandchildren, Russell, Max, Alex, David, Michaela, Lucas, Harrison, Caroline, Hanna, Edison, and Eliana, and one great-grandchild, Henry.
Dr. Sandra Gold gave one of the many eulogies in tribute to Mrs. Adler earlier this week.
“For her children, her entire family and her friends Elaine had unlimited love and respect, as well as concern and caring, for the family of man,” said Dr. Gold. “We celebrate Elaine’s beautiful life and her contributions to making our lives beautiful. As for me, I will remember Elaine dancing. Heaven will be enhanced when Elaine arrives.”