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Leadership Award

 Richard M. Scrushy 

Chairman of the Board & CEO
HealthSouth Corporation
Jefferson State Community College, Alabama

By Madeline Patton

The community college system is the foundation, on which he built his career, says HealthSouth Corp. creator Richard M. Scrushy. "It afforded me the opportunities to attend college and obtain the education I needed" to be successful, he says.

In the 16 years since Scrushy and four co-workers founded HealthSouth, the company has become the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive medical rehabilitation services. It treats more than 120,000 people a day at 2,000 facilities throughout the United States, Australia, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. It employs 52,000 people, has 50,000 referring physicians, and has contracts for on-site care at high schools, colleges, major companies, and professional sports leagues. Under Scrushy’s leadership as chief executive, president and chairman of the board, HealthSouth’s annual revenues have grown to more than $4 billion.

"I had a dream, but I don’t think you can dream this big," says the 47-year-old Scrushy, who credits community colleges with getting him started.

Married and the father of a child before he was 20, Scrushy briefly attended Wallace Community College in Selma, Ala., and then enrolled at Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham.

"Jefferson State allowed me the flexibility to go to school and work. Plus it was affordable," Scrushy says. The "outstanding instructors" at Jefferson State prepared him for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he taught respiratory therapy for two years after earning his bachelor’s degree. He set up respiratory therapy programs at two community colleges before going into hospital management.

A steadfast supporter of education, Scrushy has been particularly generous to Jefferson State. He gave the Birmingham community college $1 million to buy land adjoining its Shelby campus 50 miles away, and another $500,000 for a new classroom building that will open there this summer. The campus has been renamed the Richard M. Scrushy Campus, though Scrushy did not request this honor.

Scrushy’s personal philanthropy extends to other educational institutions and charities, including United Cerebral Palsy, the University of Alabama and the Olympics. His company is also philanthropic. It has also given more than $100 million to various causes and it encourages employees to continue their schooling by giving them scholarships and tuition reimbursements.

Scrushy and sports star Bo Jackson created the Sports Medicine Council, which developed a lively, free road show called "Go For It" to encourage youngsters to stay in school. The program is about to become a television show.

The council sought advice from athletes, physicians and television professionals about ways to craft the show. It features celebrity athletes and interactive technology while covering topics such as nutrition, injury prevention and good decision-making.

"I feel like companies in America need to give back," Scrushy says.

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