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Center City Couple Gives Back to Pave the Way Forward

 4 min read

Ron and Suzanne Naples Support Neurology Department at the Honickman Center

Ron and Suzanne Naples remember the worst time in their lives as parents—watching their son battle an unknown illness that was robbing him of his ability to speak, to move, to understand what was happening around him.

“We thought we were watching him die,” Ron says.

Their son, Marcus, experienced a neurological collapse after an exaggerated autoimmune response to a viral infection in 2010. After several days of progressively worsening symptoms and several visits to local medical facilities, the 28-year-old took a dramatic turn for the worse. When local hospitals were unable to help him, they sought answers at Jefferson.

“He was totally without cognition. The doctors were confounded for a long time because there was not a straightforward, identifiable virus that they could nail down,” Suzanne remembers. “As a parent, it was unnerving.”

He was so sick that his older brother, Regen, was brought home from serving in Iraq, and his wife, Jennifer, took a temporary leave of absence from Jefferson College of Pharmacy to stay by his side.

“The Jefferson doctors stepped in and began aggressive treatment,” Suzanne says.

“He went into respiratory arrest at least once, but everybody leaped in and were on the spot. I think without that attention he might well have died,” Ron adds.

After three months in the hospital—including a three-week stint in the ICU—Marcus improved. He had to learn to walk again and to navigate lingering neurological challenges. He returned to work as an attorney, moonlighted as a sports blogger, and currently lives in Potomac, MD, with Jennifer, who now a pharmacist with the FDA. He is also a doting dad to two little girls ages 4 and 6.

“The experience made an impression on us,” Ron says, noting that he and his wife were not only grateful for the outstanding clinical care that saved their son’s life, but also the compassion and kindness the staff showed toward the entire family during the crisis.

“We were very appreciative of how Jefferson stepped up,” Ron says. So appreciative that he agreed to join Jefferson’s Board of Trustees shortly thereafter.

Their gratitude remained steady over the years, and when Jefferson announced the creation of the “healthcare facility of the future,” they chose to make a generous gift to support the neurology services at the Honickman Center.

Ron calls the facility an important addition to the Jefferson presence in Center City. “It makes a powerful statement—it says that we’re part of this community, and we’re here to stay.”

He says the two most important aspects of the Honickman Center is efficiency and technology.

“Healthcare is more and more dependent on efficiency. Jefferson was very spread out, and it was hard for people to find where they needed to go,” he says, noting that having one facility to centralize care creates a user-friendly experience that is better able to serve the needs of the patients and their families. “And the technology aspect adds to that efficiency.”

Ron says that supporting the Honickman Center is being part of the fabric of the community and fulfilling a philosophy of life. “Once you realize what difference you can make in a life along the way, it’s hard to walk away from. It’s hard not to want to do more.”

The couple, who resides in Center City, lives that philosophy—neither are strangers to serving the greater good.

Ron, a graduate of West Point served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, and has been awarded a number of military decorations, including two Bronze Star Medals, an Air Medal, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star. 

He went on to a business career that included almost 30 years as the CEO of two Philadelphia-based public companies, and also to serve in several government capacities. He chaired the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, was Assistant to the Counselor to the President for Economic Affairs and a Special Assistant to the Head of the Federal Energy Administration in the President Gerald Ford Administration. He also served as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Stimulus Oversight Commission in the Gov. Ed Rendell administration.

Although he’s retired now, he continues to serve on corporate and non-profit boards.

In addition, earlier in their now 56-year marriage, he and Suzanne were foster parents to 15 children—one of whom they adopted, a daughter who was 8 years old at the time.

They instilled in their children the importance of doing good in the world. They agree that projects like the Honickman Center are critically important to the evolution of healthcare, and can only happen through philanthropy.

“There’s just not enough public money to go around,” Ron says. “You need to have people from outside the organization, people who care about the community they’re in, and who are willing to contribute.”

For Ron and Suzanne, supporting the Honickman Center is their way of “finding a path forward” in helping Jefferson in its mission to improve lives.