A successful businesswoman with a wide range of professional expertise, Patricia Hoefler ’63 believes we are a composite of our experiences. And while retirement was an option for her after recently selling her company, MEDS Publishing, which she launched and ran for 26 years, Hoefler instead decided to amass more amazing experiences. Hoefler plans to help promote several women’s organizations advocating gender equality, security and leadership on a global scale.
Hoefler grew up in Milwaukee, the oldest girl in a family of seven children, and at age 15 went to work for 85 cents an hour as a nurse’s aide at St. Anthony’s Hospital. She explains, “It was the only private African American hospital in Milwaukee, and it was a wonderful environment in which to learn.” It was an experience that changed her and while she acknowledges that there was racial division within the hospital wards, there was no discrimination in the delivery of nursing care.
By the end of her senior year of high school she had earned enough money to attend Alverno College. As she reflects on her time as an Alverno student, she recalls, “I had to work for my grades, but I was determined that nothing would stop me.”
Armed with a bachelor of science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Alverno and, at the suggestion of the Alverno nursing faculty, Hoefler headed to Catholic University in Washington D.C. where she continued down the path of education, earning a master’s degree in nursing education. She found Washington exciting and political just as the 1960s began to roil and, after graduation, went to work at the District of Columbia General Hospital.
In addition to working in a hospital setting, Hoefler also taught at several nursing programs, including Georgetown and George Mason universities. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hoefler noticed the transformation nursing was making. “Licensing exams started to change to stress critical thinking and problem solving,” she said.
Eventually she met and married Gerald and they soon had a family. “I had four children under the ages of four and a husband who traveled for his job with the National Security Agency,” she explained. With so much going on, Hoefler had to make the best of her limited opportunities and it was at this time that she founded MEDS Publishing using her teaching experience. MEDS Publishing initially provided live prep courses for recent nursing graduates taking the national nursing licensing exam. From the initial prep course many other courses and materials followed.
Hoefler said what really drove the company was the superior educational quality of our products and the consistent use of innovative technology. By 2008, many MEDS Publishing products were considered the gold standard in nursing and health care education. Hoefler states that running the company was a continuous learning experience. “My vision for MEDS Publishing was always to be the best, however the landscape of nursing education and health care was changing rapidly as was technology. As the leader of the company, I had to constantly adapt and have the vision to see the opportunities for innovation that these changes presented.”
MEDS Publishing grew to employ hundreds of employees and consultants and, when asked for sound advice, Hoefler shares, “Surround yourself with really smart employees. It’s OK to not be the smartest person in the room because together you will achieve your goals.”
After 26 years of leadership and innovation, Hoefler sold her company to a large educational publishing company, which, at the time, had hundreds of thousands of customers. Her success was planned out of necessity and a niche begging to be filled.
Hoefler didn’t waste any time transitioning to her next challenge. In January, Hoefler attended the Institute for Inclusive Security’s annual colloquium in Cambridge, Mass. “Thirteen young women who are exceptional peacemakers from around the world came to Cambridge. It was an amazing experience as we had opportunities to interact with these leaders on a personal level. By supporting these women we will enable women to provide a more stable world for the present and for our children and grandchildren in the future.”