The History of Otterbein
Conceived in compassion and inspired by foresight.
One man had a bold dream. Dr. J.M. Phillippi of Lebanon, Ohio, dreamed that his church, the United Brethren, would one day create a home for the aged and orphaned.
In 1912, he acted on that call in a way that, to his church, seemed reckless. Even irresponsible.
Without its approval, Dr. Phillippi committed United Brethren to the purchase of 4,000 acres of a former Shaker settlement near Lebanon. The price: $325,000—40 million in today’s dollars. You can see why the church trustees gave him a sound verbal lashing!
Looking back, it all seems ordained. The leaders of that once-influential Shaker settlement, then called Union Village, must have shared his vision. Perhaps they saw it as an extension of their own “hands to work, hearts to God” ethos. They had 75 prospective buyers—but chose Dr. Phillippi.
A peaceful religious sect dating from the 1780s, the Shakers today are known for their ingenuity and cultural contributions. Especially their style of music and furniture. But they didn’t believe in procreation. They built their commune with the souls God sent their way. By 1909, the celibate Shaker population had dwindled to 26. And the village was sold.
Rather than dismantle the Shaker legacy, United Brethren preserved it. Today, Otterbein’s Marble Hall, built by Shaker craftsmen, is a national treasure, attracting history enthusiasts from around the world.
Vision and faith. Two all-conquering assets.
Dr. Phillippi said in 1912, “I am willing to take, and invite, all the censure that this church wants to give me. I think I can see something in the future. I think I can look ahead to the time when some of us that are living now will not take the same attitude toward what is now the Otterbein Home.”
Named in honor of the 1767 founder of the United Brethren in Christ Church, Phillip William Otterbein, the Home became a United Methodist ministry in 1968. That year, the United Brethren merged with the Methodists to form the United Methodist Church. Today’s Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices—an organization long-defined by innovation and compassion—has been gaining support and momentum since its founding a century ago. It is still driven by vision and faith.
The Strength of Otterbein
Our people. Our history. The spirit that guides us and calls us to serve.
- Jill C. Hreben, President/CEO, Otterbein
“Once you understand our vision, values and faith, you’ll see why Otterbein is the rare and inspired community that it is.”
Financial stability even in changing times. Of 1,902 CCRCs in the United States, Otterbein is one of only six multi-site operations rated A or better by S & P, Fitch, and/or Moody’s.
Choice second to none
Living spaces, care assistance and life enrichment activities are individually customized.
We invest in people, not profits
As a faith-based nonprofit, God calls us to serve with passion and love. Our mission flows from the United Methodist tradition.
The 2011 Ohio Department of Aging study found Otterbein Communities to be among the very top facilities in the State of Ohio, with high nurse-to-patient ratios.
Legacy of innovation
A century of continuously seeking better ways to enhance the physical, social, spiritual life of seniors.
The Spirit of Otterbein
It’s more than a job. It runs deeper than a mission. It’s a calling.
In keeping with our United Methodist tradition, we seek to enhance the quality of life and holistic growth of older persons. That’s our reason for being. But that statement, by itself, doesn’t capture the true heart of Otterbein. There’s much more to it. To us, Otterbein is a calling—a forceful impulse, divinely inspired.
A call from God manifests itself by
An unrelenting sense of responsibility
A feeling you can’t shake; it’s in your blood
The awareness that you are fit in every way necessary to carry out the call
A sense that the call is scary, but at the same time thrilling
The acceptance that Jesus is our personal savior
All who are a part of this ministry agree with certainty. It’s not a job to us or a livelihood. We are called to be here at Otterbein. A century after its remarkable founding—surely from divine inspiration—we are only beginning.
We face forward with faith, knowing that our growth is in service. We’ve grown from a simple home for the aged and orphaned to a national leader in senior living. Otterbein is not just a few buildings. Nor is it just a business. Otterbein is a ministry and it’s our privilege to answer the call—to enhance the lives and spiritual growth of our elders—with passion and with love.