Patrick Bira, '81

Patrick Bira sits near the St. Ignatius statue.

Patrick Bira, ‘81, credits his time at Rockhurst as the roots for his successes in his career. Throughout his 32 years in healthcare administration, Bira has had several opportunities to make big differences in small communities.

This passion to make improvements for the betterment of the entire community stems from a decades-old admiration of the Jesuits and their mission.

Bira was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended De Smet Jesuit High School. It was there that he was first introduced to the mission of the Jesuits. He liked that the Jesuits were not only preaching their values, but more importantly, they were living them as well.

“I was really impressed with what the Jesuits did in encouraging all high school students to be all that they could be within the values of Christianity, Catholicism, and within the Jesuit perspective,” Bira said.

His passion for the Jesuit mission, grouped with the fact that Rockhurst was also a Jesuit school, providing him a decent scholarship and giving him the opportunity to get away from home for a bit, made the college decision simple.

Once on campus, Bira appreciated the small community feel Rockhurst had to offer.

“In a small campus, you do get to know not just freshmen, not just your peers, you get to see all four levels,” Bira said. “You get to know a lot of the faculty once you gravitate toward a major. I thought that was great.”

Although he considered the campus to be a small, tight-knit community, he would not consider campus to be a bubble. Bira had several opportunities to get off campus through work, retreats, and taking a few classes at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

On campus, Bira was a resident assistant for three years, where he enjoyed welcoming in students as freshmen and watching how they grew throughout their time at Rockhurst.

“It was a chance to provide leadership in residence halls,” Bira said. “A little bit of discipline, a lot of relationships and listening, supporting people. It was an amazing opportunity for me.”

After graduating a semester early, Bira accepted a position with Southwestern Bell in Kansas City for a few months before realizing that was not what he wanted to be doing. Soon after, he went to graduate school to receive his J.D. and Master’s in Healthcare from St. Louis University in 1984.

Bira has traveled all over Missouri throughout his career in healthcare administration to places including Perryville, Troy, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but recalls his time in Perryville as one of the most memorable points in his career.

“There was this whole thing of why sit around and wait when what we’re supposed to be doing is not just waiting for people to get sick and care for them, although that’s what we do too,” Bira said. “What can we do to be creating more health prevention education services and support?”

With that in mind, Bira set forth to find a preventative measure that would help the community stay healthy.

“We worked with the chamber of commerce, the ministerial alliance which was all of the different churches, the city government, the commissioner, the sheriff, the police, and the schools and came up with building a community center from the ground up,” Bira said.

The ten-million-dollar project included a racquetball court, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool and kick-started an energy of collaboration in the community.

“It was all about service and all about the future and it’s been a godsend that we came together ever since,” Bira said. “It was one of those things where you get to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and do something really good. I kind of get goosebumps thinking about it.”

Bira has spent much of his career in small communities, similar to what he remembers Rockhurst being.

‘What was unique about Rockhurst was that it was very focused on relationships and a smaller community is something I enjoy. Perryville, Cape, Troy and Fort Madison were all smaller communities and I felt more comfortable with those,” Bira said.

Bira has since made his way back to the St. Louis area where he is currently contemplating his next career move.