Meet our leadership team
Gayle Trupiano, President and Chief Executive Officer
Gayle, with more than 30 years of progressive management experience in nursing, clinical support services and healthcare administration, joined Ascension Living to further elevate Ascension Healthcare’s integrated systems of care.
Prior to joining Ascension Living, Gayle served as Vice President, Performance Excellence, leading efforts around operational and clinical performance with a steadfast commitment to Ascension’s Mission of serving all with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Earlier she led Ascension’s Operations Resource Group, an internal consulting function supporting Ascension’s 2,500 sites of care in 22 states and Washington, D.C.
Among her accomplishments at Ascension, Trupiano successfully led the deployment of Ascension's Veterans Choice Program. This initiative resulted in providing access to care for 8,867 veterans and 17,378 visits over a 10-month period, while exceeding all quality standards established by the Veterans Administration.
Prior to joining Ascension in 2004, she served as the Vice President of Patient Care Services at Christian Hospital, a member of BJC Healthcare, in St. Louis. She also spent 10 years as Director of Surgical Services for two different large, acute care facilities.
Trupiano earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Webster University in Missouri and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Maryland. She also participated in the Ascension Foundations of Ministry Leadership program.
Daniel Stricker, Chief Operating Officer
Danny’s experience in the senior living industry provides our organization with a wide range of knowledge and expertise. Danny began his healthcare career in college as a caregiver in a residential behavioral health home. After college graduation, he entered the senior care industry in St. Louis as a Director of Business Development with Cincinnati-based Communicare Health Services and eventually became a licensed nursing home administrator at their North St. Louis skilled nursing and assisted living facility. He then joined the Alexian Brothers Health System, based in Arlington Heights, Ill., and currently known as AMITA, to reposition one of their skilled nursing facilities in St. Louis. He was promoted to regional chief executive officer for Ascension Healthcare’s Carondelet Long-Term Care Facilities in Kansas City and upon the formation of Ascension Living in 2014, he served as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, where he led key, strategic initiatives for the organization.
He possesses in-depth knowledge of the strategic and operational aspects of the industry, as well as the interconnectivity of senior living to the broader healthcare ecosystem, with a focus on personalized and quality care. In 2016, Danny was recognized as one of the Catholic Health Association’s “Tomorrow’s Leaders,” a prestigious recognition in Catholic healthcare.He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in management from William Jewell College, and a master’s degree in health administration from Lindenwood University.
Helen Burke, Senior Director, Human Resources
Helen provides leadership support with operational and strategic human resources outcomes. As a member of the senior leadership team, she collaborates to develop and implement integrated and aligned organizational strategies to achieve operating goals and objectives. She brings more than 20 years of experience in directing HR teams, providing guidance to senior managers and coaching and developing HR staff in various disciplines. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Saint Louis University and completed the Ascension Management Formation program.
Tim Gorman, Legal Counsel
Tim brings a broad range of skills to his role supporting Ascension Living, such as advising and assisting clients on an array of transactional and operational business, regulatory and legal issues. He has been a partner at the Lowenbaum Law Firm, focusing his legal work in business, health care and corporate law. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Eastern Illinois University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Missouri.
Michael Gordon, CPA, Chief Financial Officer
Prior to that, Mike worked in the banking industry.
Mike is a certified public accountant with thorough knowledge of the senior living industry and has substantial experience in operating multi-site senior living locations. He is a mission-driven leader with excellent analytical, strategic and management skills who thrives on supporting other leaders to ensure the continuation of our founders’ mission. In addition, Mike creates and maintains a partnership between associates, the community, and those we serve that fosters an environment honoring individual preferences, choices and traditions.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Governors State University, University Park, Illinois, and a Master of Business Administration from Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois. He has served on the Finance Committees for Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, College Church of the Nazarene, and the Illinois Homecare and Hospice Council, and on the Finance, Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living Cabinets of LeadingAge Illinois.
Elaine Scheelk, Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Elaine came into the senior living space after building a real estate team focused on seniors making downsizing moves. Her years of experience building teams and brands along with coaching talent to achieve at high levels give her a unique perspective on the development of marketing and sales strategies to support Ascension Living growth objectives, build the Ascension Living brand and support Ascension Living’s mission of delivering excellent care and exceptional experience to those we serve.
Elaine joined Ascension Living in 2016 and has worked in the senior living industry for six years, and in real estate sales and management for 12 years with great success in developing and positioning brands, enhancing and implementing proactive sales strategies, leading to growth year over year. Before assuming her current role, Elaine served as our Regional Director of Sales and Marketing, providing strategic direction, sales coaching and business tracking to our retirement community teams.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies, Psychology and Youth Ministry from North Park College, Chicago, Illinois.
Debra Valkenberg RN, BC- RAC-CT, Chief Nursing Officer
Debra Valkenberg RN, BC- RAC-CT, brings nearly 20 years of senior care nursing leadership experience to her role as Ascension Living’s Chief Nursing Officer. She provides strategic and operational leadership across all nursing services functions and care delivery models throughout Ascension Living while promoting alignment within Ascension’s national health system.
She is a visionary leader, driven by our mission to provide the highest level of care and compassion to residents, associates and the community. During her time with Ascension Living, Debra has ensured that our clinical team has remained focused, while supporting our communities with a high degree of service. She is honored lead a clinical team dedicated to serving seniors, so they can enjoy living healthier and happier, at every age and at every stagePrior to joining Ascension Living, Debra served as the Senior Divisional Director of Clinical Services for Brookdale Senior Living. Over her career in nursing, she has served in a variety of areas, including divisional clinical operations; regional quality improvement; national and divisional Minimum Data Set (MDS) support; community nurse leadership; and direct care in pediatric and telemetry units. She earned her nursing degree from Excelsior College in New York and is a Certified Resident Assessment Coordinator, a nationally recognized gold standard in resident assessment in the long-term care nursing profession.
Kenneth Robert (Bob) Smoot, MDiv, MA, Chief Mission Integration Officer
Bob Smoot began his service as Chief Mission Integration Officer for Ascension Living in December 2018, having previously served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Mission Officer for AMITA Health, the Chicago-based joint venture of Ascension’s Alexian Brothers Health System and Presence Health with Adventist Midwest Health.
In this pivotal role, Bob is responsible for establishing a collaborative framework for the growth of a common culture across Ascension Living, building upon the richness of the healing traditions of our legacy organizations and advancing our ministry integration grounded in our Mission and Values. His team works to deepen the awareness of and fully realize our identity as a healing ministry of the Catholic Church in all aspects of strategy, organizational culture, service and community collaboration and promote Ascension’s broad strategic and organizational commitment to our Mission. Bob assures the evolving initiatives, programs and resources that support the One Ascension journey, engaging the gifts of all for the sake of our Mission.
He brings a wealth of knowledge as a thought leader in the nuanced application of ethics, spirituality and community transformation with special attention to those who are poor and marginalized. Bob received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Saint Louis University, St. Louis, and his Master of Divinity and Master of Moral Theology degrees from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis. In addition, soon Bob will complete the Master of Arts program in Bioethics and Health Policy at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics & Healthcare Leadership at Loyola University, Chicago.