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Henry Berling (1943-2021), gentleman entrepreneur, mentor and sales dynamo, remembered by Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership
Henry Berling (1943-2021), Bellwether Class of 2014
SCHAUMBURG, IL (February 12, 2021) – When it came to dedicated customer service, Henry Berling would give you the shirt off his back.
Just not his socks. Why? He rarely wore them. It was his trademark.
In 2014, Berling was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership by Bellwether League Foundation (BLF).
During his acceptance speech more than six years ago, Berling drew immediate laughs when he quipped that he was one of the few guys left in the industry that started his career around the debut of Medicare, and in the twilight of his career actually wound up on Medicare.
Berling, 78, died on Tuesday, February 9, Bellwether League Foundation learned.
Through distributors Stuart Medical and Owens & Minor, Berling not only left an indelible mark in the industry but also solidified his reputation for customer service, mentoring and training as well as entrepreneurial growth. He regularly shared credit for successes along with way with fellow executives and team members. In fact, he held near and dear to his heart the personal and professional philosophy that, “if you treat people well and take care of your teammates, they will never let you down.” If you were fortunate, Berling would share with you his passion for cigars and maybe take you for a drive in one of his prized Cadillacs – occasionally at the same time.
Retirement in August 2004, however, could not hold him back. Six months after he retired from Owens & Minor, following nearly four decades of service, Berling spotted a need. He and a friend partnered to rescue a struggling custom kit assembly business that they steered to becoming a multimillion-dollar corporation today after 15 more years.
Deborah Templeton, R.Ph., Chairman, Bellwether League Foundation, expressed profound respect for Berling’s contributions and legacy, befitting a Hall of Famer.
“Individuals chosen as Bellwethers do not have that honor bestowed lightly,” Templeton said. “After a rigorous application and nomination process, individuals like Henry Berling rise to the top. We are honored to have had the opportunity to recognize Henry for his innovative and visionary accomplishments and the leadership and contributions to making our healthcare delivery one of quality. He will be fondly remembered by those that knew him well, and truly missed by the Bellwether group that he walked among.”
For more remembrances from the Bellwether Community, read on below. If you would like to share your own thoughts about Henry Berling, please email them to Bellwether League Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org to be recorded in this memorial.
After graduating from Villanova University in 1965, Berling joined his father’s company, A&J Hospital Supply where he learned about product distribution for the hospital, laboratory and home health markets. His crash course accelerated the next year when Berling’s father decided to sell his company to Owens, Minor & Bodeker Drug Co. (the forerunner to Owens & Minor today). Berling started as a salesman at OM&B, and advanced quickly through every sales position to join the executive team with a mission to grow the business through sales and acquisitions.
Through a series of strategic acquisitions starting in 1968, OM&B was able to expand throughout the East Coast and into the Southeast, as well as to the West Coast, Midwest and Great Plains, emerging as a national corporation with a coast-to-coast reach. The names added to the company stable under his direction included Powers & Anderson, G.D. Searle’s Will Ross Co. division and Stuart Medical, among others.
By the mid-1980s, Berling had helped the newly renamed Owens & Minor, which had divested its drug distribution business years earlier to concentrate on medical/surgical supplies, into a major player generating more than $1 billion in annual sales. Berling spearheaded the first group purchasing deal between Owens & Minor and Voluntary Hospitals of America (VHA), one of the forerunners of Vizient. He also signed American Medical International (AMI) as one of the first investor-owned hospital system agreements. AMI later would be one of two organizations to form Tenet Healthcare Corp. in the 1990s.
By the time Berling retired as Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer in late 2004, Owens & Minor quadrupled its annual sales to more than $4 billion.
During his more than 50-year career, Berling frequently gave presentations at association and trade show events and contributed time and effort to a number of local charities and humanitarian causes. He served as both a member and board member for such organizations as the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) and the Association for perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN).
Berling is survived by his wife Carol with whom he had been married for more than 50 years, and four adult sons, and 14 grandchildren..
About Bellwether League Foundation
Bellwether League Foundation comprises two operating divisions that educate, endow and evaluate professionals in healthcare supply chain performance excellence: The Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership and Bellwether Philanthropy.
The Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership evaluates and validates professionals submitted for consideration in its three award programs: Bellwether Honorees, Future Famers and Ammer Honorees. The Hall of Fame also offers educational content via the Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership Forum and its “Leaders & Luminaries” multimedia brand of live, online and printed content.
The Board selects deceased, retired and currently active professionals with a minimum of 25 years of exemplary service and leadership performance in supply chain operations that meet its criteria to be recognized publicly as Bellwether Class Honorees. Those honored demonstrate their qualifications by advancing the profession through work experience and performance and active participation in professional organizations and their communities.
Honorees include professionals from hospitals and other healthcare providers, manufacturers and distributors of healthcare products and services, group purchasing organizations, consulting firms, educational institutions and media outlets.
Future Famers represent supply chain professionals early in their healthcare careers who do not yet qualify for Bellwether consideration but have contributed meaningfully to the healthcare supply chain profession.
Honorees who receive the “Dean S. Ammer Award for Healthcare Supply Chain Performance Excellence” represent noteworthy executives and professionals in the middle of their careers who, through their innovative leadership and influential project management experience, best exemplify the practice and spirit of healthcare supply chain performance excellence.
To date, The Hall of Fame for Healthcare Supply Chain Leadership has honored 120 innovators, leaders and pioneers in healthcare supply chain management in five distinct categories: Education & Media, Supply Chain Management, Group Purchasing, Supplier and Consulting Services. Bellwether League also has recognized 30 Future Famers, and one Ammer Honoree.
Bellwether Philanthropy offers scholarships to college-bound high school students who plan to study supply chain curricula, current collegiate students who major in supply chain-related careers and professionals who pursue continuing education through associations and universities.
Launched in late July 2007 by a group of influential veterans in the healthcare supply chain industry, Bellwether League Foundation began as a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation that identifies and honors men and women who have demonstrated significant leadership in, influence on and contributions to the healthcare supply chain. It upgraded to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in January 2021.
Bellwether League Foundation currently is funded by six Founding and Platinum Sponsors – HealthTrust, Intalere, Owens & Minor, Premier, Vizient and Wingfoot Media – and a host of additional sponsors.
For more information on how to become a sustaining or corporate sponsor or to nominate Bellwether Honoree, Ammer Honoree and Future Famer candidates visit BellwetherLeague.org.
Remembering Henry Berling
“I knew Henry quite well. God did not make many like him who truly cared about the people served by the industry.”
Bill McFaul (Bellwether Class of 2008).
“Henry was a much beloved figure in the distribution industry, active in HIDA, and an innovator and leader who was always accessible, down to earth, and willing to help where he could. A great guy and a pioneer who will be sorely missed.”
Ted Almon (Bellwether Class of 2010)
“Henry Berling was a fine southern gentleman, in the very best sense of the term. He was a consummate salesman, and I personally watched him defuse tough negotiations with his charm and warm sense of humor. A truly fine man and always a pleasure to see, and work with.”
John Strong (Bellwether Class of 2011), Bellwether League Inc. Board Member (2012-2017)
“We go back all the way to the formation of AmeriNet. He even graciously invited me to stay at his home prior to a meeting at O&M one time. Tough businessman, but a gracious human being. Henry epitomized the term ‘Southern Gentleman.’ We have lost a very fine man.”
Robert “Bud” Bowen (Bellwether Class of 2014), Bellwether League Inc. Founding Secretary (2007-2010)