Obituary — Roy Penchansky


Roy Penchansky, professor emeritus of health management and policy, took his last cruise with his loving wife, Elizabeth W. Bates, and he disembarked from this world on Oct. 23 in Malta at the age of 89. 

Roy was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Sept. 24, 1934, to Samuel and Florence (Bass) Penchansky. His father, a butcher, owned a wholesale kosher meat distribution firm, which he operated with two brothers. His mother, a homemaker, volunteered on behalf of the American Jewish Congress for many years. Roy was Jewish, had a bar mitzvah, and passed that tradition on to his sons, although he was not religious.

A photo of Roy Penchansky
Roy Penchansky

As a boy, Roy and his father were active in Boy Scouts at which time Roy developed leadership skills and an early interest in cooking, which he pursued throughout his life. He spent summers at a family cottage on Lake Hopatcong where he acquired a lifelong interest in boating. He had a small hydroplane that he raced. 

A graduate of Bayonne High School, Roy’s college career began at Tulane University, and after a year he returned to Bayonne and entered St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, where he graduated in 1956 with a B.A. He completed graduate work in industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, receiving an M.I.L.R. degree in 1958.

He then attended Harvard University, where he earned a doctorate from the School of Business Administration in 1962. He was an assistant professor of administration in medical care at Harvard from 1963 until joining the University of Michigan faculty in 1966 as an associate professor of medical care organization in the School of Public Health. He was promoted to professor in 1972.

Professor Penchansky was an innovator in health care education for community leaders and health care professionals throughout the U.S. He worked with the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity to educate leaders in minority populations in the management of community health centers.

In the 1970s, he developed and instituted the nation’s first executive master’s degree program in health care administration in the Department of Medical Care Organization. This program has served as the model for executive programs both in the School of Public Health and other departments and has been emulated by numerous universities across the country. 

Professor Penchansky was a pioneer in research on health maintenance organizations. His work with colleagues in the 1970s remains some of the most important research on HMO enrollment choice.

He also authored a number of papers and research monographs, most notably “The concept of access: definition and relationship to consumer satisfaction” written with John William Thomas. Published in 1981, the work continues to be cited today and is referred to as the Penchansky and Thomas Theory on Health Care Access.

In 1996, Roy retired to Oriental, North Carolina, where he could sail his boat, Academic Freedom, year-round. There he was key to starting the Pamlico Musical Society in 1997 and provided his expertise to the founding of Hope Clinic in 1998.

After a decade in Oriental, and several more boats, he moved to Brevard, North Carolina, where he enjoyed gardening, waterfalls and classical music concerts. 

A diehard Michigan Wolverine, Roy wore his “Michigan” hat on his last day hiking in Malta, where he was greeted with “Go Blue!”

Roy is survived by wife, Elizabeth Bates; sons Seth (Hope) Penchansky and Lee (Katherine) Penchansky; stepdaughter Emily (William) Gold; brother Alan Penchansky; and seven grandchildren: Cassidy, Sacha, Parker, Charlotte, Abigail, Evelyn and Samantha.  

Donations in Roy’s name may be made to Hope Clinic in Bayboro, North Carolina; Pamlico Musical Society in Oriental, North Carolina; or the Brevard Music Center in Brevard, North Carolina. A private memorial will take place at a later date.

Submitted by the Penchansky family


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