Celebrating the Legacy of Benjamin F. Reaves at AdventHealth

The former health-care leader and university president left a remarkable spiritual impression.

Southern Tidings
Celebrating the Legacy of Benjamin F. Reaves at AdventHealth
Benjamin F. Reaves. [Photo: AdventHealth]

Benjamin F. Reaves, a distinguished Adventist preacher, teacher, author, university president, and health-care mission and ministry leader, who dedicated more than five decades of his life to serving others, passed away on February 1, 2024, at the age of 91.

During his rich, decades-long ministry, Reaves served as vice president of mission and ministry at AdventHealth (then Adventist Health System) from 1997 to 2010 under three of the company’s presidents: Mardian Blair, Tom Werner, and Don Jernigan. He also served later as a special advisor to the CEO.

“Over the years, Ben was not only a cherished member of the AdventHealth team, but a principled leader who reflected Christ’s love and compassion to those around him,” Terry Shaw, president and CEO at AdventHealth, said. “He was a reliable source of wisdom and inspiration as our company undertook its sacred mission. His unwavering commitment to our mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ shaped our organization’s faith-based care in profound ways. The impact of his contributions can still be felt today.”

During his tenure with AdventHealth, Reaves helped establish many pivotal, mission-focused initiatives that served as key foundations for centering the company’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ. These initiatives, such as Mission Integration Peer Review (MIPR), ministry education and licensing, spiritual ambassadors, and Conference on Mission, are still a part of AdventHealth’s ongoing work. In fact, Reaves’ involvement with the annual Conference on Mission advanced and deepened the event’s impact to such a high level that its opening address is named in his honor.

“Dr. Reaves was a natural born leader — a man of sterling character and noble stature,” Ted Hamilton, former senior vice president and chief mission integration officer at AdventHealth, said. “He was a preacher without parallel and a teacher who brought out the best in his students. He bore appreciation and acclaim with humility and grace. It is a privilege to have known and worked with this gentleman and scholar.”

Each person who had the opportunity to work with or interface with Reaves can point to a moment when his words or actions were instrumental in guiding them both personally and professionally.

“When I was the CEO at UChicago Medicine AdventHealth LaGrange in Chicago, the Mission Integration Peer Review process was put in place,” said Tim Cook, current senior vice president and chief mission integration officer at AdventHealth. “In the first MIPR team to visit me as a CEO was Dr. Reaves. After the review, he came to my office and encouraged and affirmed me. He affirmed the role of CEO as chief spiritual officer and prayed with me. To have such a leader as Dr. Reaves make such a deep personal connection was a moment that I will never forget. I am deeply inspired by the life he lived and so grateful to have been able to minister with him at AdventHealth.”

“He was a friend, mentor, and mission leader who set the pace for ministry across the system,” said Orlando Jay Perez, vice president of pastoral care and spiritual integration ministry at AdventHealth. “We worked together in the development of ministry education through Andrews University and ACPE [an accrediting organization for spiritual care professionals]. This elevated the professional standard and licensing of our chaplains. Today, our Master of Science in spiritual care at AdventHealth University is the byproduct of that vision.”

“Ben was a steady hand for ministry in AdventHealth, always keeping a cool unwavering pastoral presence,” Perez added. “He was always a pastor and educator at heart. He saw himself as the pastor for the health-care executives, and they respected him as such. I consider myself blessed to have worked with Ben for almost 26 years.”

“Dr. Reaves’ compassion and kindness of his heart is where my deepest appreciation of knowing him originates,” said Ramona Reynolds, executive director of ministry education and research at AdventHealth and AdventHealth University. “For years, his face was the first I would see as I came into the office with his photo hung just down the hall, looking over us and our work. It was a comfort and encouragement — a reminder of a compassionate and caring pastor.”

“He had an unshakable commitment to and respect for chaplaincy ministry. He challenged us to find ways this ministry could be more closely integrated within the clinical environment and known and appreciated within Adventist Church circles as well,” said Greg Ellis, executive director for mission and ministry at AdventHealth in central Florida. “He was as comfortable in the pulpit as in the executive suite, the classroom, or the bedside. I remember his insightful questions to young chaplain candidates — he could go right to the heart of the matter.”

“One memory I always hold dear was when we built the Ginsburg Tower here on the Orlando campus,” Ellis said. “As we planned a dedicatory event to mark the beginning of laying the foundation of that structure, Dr. Reaves readily agreed to share words of inspiration and a special prayer with our leadership team. We gathered on the top of the parking garage at Sabbath [Saturday] sunset, and Dr. Reaves took the megaphone, and in that powerful voice shared with us the story of creation and offered a moving prayer of dedication for this newly established sanctuary of healing. I will never forget that.”

“Benjamin F. Reaves leaves a memorable record of academic, musical, pastoral, and administrative excellence. He was kind, wise, erudite, and effective. His presence will be missed, but his stellar example and influence will not, should not, cannot die,” said Calvin B. Rock, pastor and church administrator, published author, and former president of Oakwood University. Rock was the predecessor to Reaves’ time as president at Oakwood University.

Reaves’ legacy is firmly woven into the fabric of AdventHealth and will continue to be a reminder to new generations of the impact that a person filled with compassion and dedication can have. His commitment to spiritual care will be an ongoing driver as AdventHealth seeks to Extend the Healing Ministry of Christ in new ways.

Reaves is survived by his daughters, Terrilyn and Pamela; grandchildren; nieces; and nephews. His son, Benjamin Reaves Jr., and Ben’s wife, Jean Manuel Reaves, preceded him in death in 2023 and 2013, respectively.

The original version of this story was posted by Southern Tidings.

Southern Tidings