In Memoriam of Jeff Ostrowski, 1962-2020
By Kristen Wilson, PT, DPT
As a lover of language, I’ve always been a proponent of the adage “words matter,” which is why it seems most fitting to announce the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Jeff Ostrowski, in a publication titled Impact.
Many would argue there are few people in physical therapy that have impacted our profession as profoundly as Jeff has in his limited years with us. Jeff passed peacefully on November 21, 2020 at home, surrounded by his loving family after a 21-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
There are countless members in our section who acknowledge Jeff as having an influential role in their professional success. In fact, as I pen this letter, I am proud to note that my position as Editor is the result of Jeff nominating me for the Impact board in 2015. Jeff influenced hundreds of physical therapists on a local and national level as founder of Excel Physical Therapy, Director of the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association, Director of the Private Practice Section, and Editor of Impact magazine. As an intentional and articulate speaker and writer, Jeff used his words to motivate, encourage, and understand those who shared his presence. He was a mentor to many in our section and his impact will be carried on in the legacy he created for years to come.
To honor our friend, I encourage you to reflect on a word that exemplifies your favorite mentor, write it down, and place it at your desk. Contemplate that word daily and allow it to shape how you influence those around you. Because while no words will ease the loss of Jeff Ostrowski to our profession and lives, perhaps by giving forward like he did, we too can impact the future.
“Jeff was a friend and a mentor to me, but also so much more. I was lucky enough to work with him while I was Editor of Impact and he knew how to find that right balance of questioning, inspiring, listening, challenging, and supporting. He always had time to sit down and talk (usually over a glass of wine). I am going to miss him so much.”
– Stacy Menz, Former Impact Editor
“Jeff taught me how to listen, discern and ask questions. He made everyone feel equally important. His greatest gift to me? Allowing me to know his true self. It is beautiful!”
– Terry Brown, Former PPS President
“Not only was Jeff Ostrowski an exceptional and accomplished individual, but his generosity in helping everyone around him “be better” in business and as leaders was abundant in every conversation. I never left a conversation with Jeff without learning something new or thinking about something from a new perspective; it’s devastating to think of all that we didn’t have time to learn from Jeff. As a friend, Jeff was the kind of person you knew would never let you fall on your face. He listened to hear, and his input was honest, but always kind. I benefited greatly from his mentorship, first on the editorial board of Impact magazine and then serving together on the PPS Board of Directors. His loss will be acutely felt by PPS and the profession for a long time to come.”
– Angela Wilson Pennisi, Former Impact Editor, Former Director of PPS
“Jeff was easy to love because he made you like yourself. His high expectations coupled with his ability to transfer his quiet confidence to colleagues made you believe in yourself. His influence on others was disproportionate to his limited time with them. It is these rare gifts that live on in the countless volunteers across the nation that answer “Jeff Ostrowski” as the reason why they are successful and give back to our great profession. Miss you my friend.”
– Mike Horsfield, PPS President
“I always saw Jeff as the epitome of a physical therapy leader. A true mentor and trusted guide, I will be forever grateful for how he helped me grow and evolve in my career and as a person. Jeff’s presence not only encouraged everyone around him to dress better, but to live more authentically as the best version of themselves. I loved Jeff as a colleague and as a friend, and I will miss him dearly.”
– Michelle Collie, Marketing Committee Chair
“I briefly met Jeff Ostrowski when I first joined PPS and went to my first conference in 2002. In those early years I heard him speak and I said to myself, “this is a leader I want to emulate.” Jeff was a rare individual that elegantly bridged the gap between the people side and the business side of the equation. Years later at another PPS, Mike Horsefield brought me into a conference suite to beta test the Peer2Peer mastermind group. I walked in and Jeff was standing in the room. I felt like I hit the lottery. We became close friends over the years and I always left his presence inspired. Jeff made you feel seen. He recognized the gifts and talents in those around him and gave them confidence to be even better. My friendship with Jeff was a transformative one, our conversations made me always want to be the best version of myself. Jeff will be missed terribly and if we can all be a little more like Jeff the world will be a better place. My heart goes out to Peggy and his children. Rest in peace my friend. Thank you for all you gave of yourself and the fine example you set for us.”
– Dan Rootenberg