When people talk about what Ruth Dugan has accomplished in the past year, the word “impossible” usually comes up. Dugan, 61, a mother of six from Saddle River, joined the board of the Bayonne Medical Center in 2006 because her husband grew up in the city and her son lives there. She ended up saving the hospital from bankruptcy.
“We built the case that it’s not just about money, it’s about people’s lives and the safety of a whole community,” says Dugan, who became chairwoman of the board of trustees in August 2007, when the hospital was on the verge of being shuttered. She jumped right into the crisis, researching the area’s medical needs, gathering 40,000 signatures on a petition to the governor, holding public meetings, getting local media coverage, and pleading in bankruptcy court. “I thought that having medical care available was so important that I couldn’t imagine any circumstance that would leave the community without it,” she says. “So I took it on—not realizing, of course, that the task would be Herculean.”
A lifelong volunteer, including a stint as president of the Saddle River Board of Education, Dugan says she was always inspired by her Holocaust-survivor parents. “I always believed you should be involved and could make a difference,” she says. “And that’s an idea I want to pass along to my children.”
Meet our other Seeds of Hope honorees.