H.E. “Ted” Thranhardt’s first job in orthotics and prosthetics, at age 15, was carving a knee from a block of hickory wood. From that simple beginning, his career has soared for almost a half century. Along the way, Thranhardt has won the respect and accolades of his colleagues and has had a lasting influence on the O&P industry.
Along with Ronney Snell, CPO, FAAOP, Ted Thranhardt is one of only two persons who have ever served as president of all three major O&P organizations: the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy), 1976-77; the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC), 1979-80; and the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), 1993-94.
AOPA presented Thranhardt with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, during the 2002 AOPA National Assembly in Chicago, Illinois. He was chosen “because of his numerous contributions to the O&P industry and the lifetime of service he has given to the O&P community at large,” AOPA said.
“Ted’s contribution to the O&P field has been top-drawer….He and his wife Loretta contributed substantially to Northwestern’s O&P library. I’ve known Ted for 35 years or more and consider him one of my best friends.” Read more…
In 2005 the Academy also gave Thranhardt its supreme honor: the Titus-Ferguson Award, which is “the highest level of recognition bestowed upon an outstanding Academician whose accomplishments and contributions have made a significant impact on the growth and development of the profession. This highly dedicated individual must have demonstrated a record of sustained devotion and leadership to the advancement of the Academy and the orthotics and prosthetics profession,” according to the Academy. The award was presented during the Academy’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
The third generation of his family in the O&P field, Thranhardt, who was born in 1939 in Atlanta, Georgia, began working full time at J.E. Hanger (Hanger Southeast) at the age of 18. His grandfather, Paul Coleman, had purchased the rights to the J.E. Hanger name in the early 1900s. His father, Howard R. Thranhardt, took over the company after World War II. Howard Thranhardt became a national leader during the post-World War II period, when emphasis was placed on research and education to advance the O&P field, according to an article in the July 2000 issue of Capabilities , published by Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.
|Loretta and Ted with President Jimmy Carter.|
After he graduated from Northside High School in Atlanta, Thranhardt’s life was a whirlwind for the next four years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia State University; attended New York University for prosthetics; Northwestern University, Chicago, for orthotics and prosthetics; and Emory University, Atlanta, for post-graduate management education, during which time, he married, became a father to three children, and worked eight hours a day in prosthetics and orthotics. He admits that he “slept very little,” but adds that the harried pace “set the tempo for my career.”
He was ABC-certified in prosthetics at age 21.
Thranhardt’s early years in the O&P profession were spent in New Orleans, Louisiana, providing prosthetic care and learning orthotics; in Birmingham, Alabama, as a traveling prosthetist, visiting patients in their homes; and in Jacksonville, Florida. After ten years, he moved into a management position, managing several offices in Florida while maintaining a prosthetic practice in Orlando.
|Ted and Mich Rabb, circa 1966 in a lab in Jacksonville, Florida.|
Thranhardt recalls the beginning of his political career in O&P began when Sam Hamontree, CP, and Roy Snelson, CPO(E), asked him if he would consider standing for election as a director of the Academy. He served on the Academy Board for seven years, including his term as president. During that time, he continued his education in orthotics and sat for the ABC exam in orthotics while serving as president-elect of the Academy. “Talk about public pressure!” he recalls with a smile in his voice. He successfully passed the exam to become ABC-certified in both disciplines.
In 1975 he became president of Hanger Southeast, which at the time operated 15 facilities throughout the Southeastern US. He followed his stint on the Academy Board with four years on the ABC Board of Directors, including a term as president.
Thranhardt was elected to the AOPA Board of Directors in 1990, serving through the presidency, and then he became chairman of the National Office for a year.
Hanger Southeast was sold to Hanger Orthopedic Group, Bethesda, Maryland, in 1996, and Thranhardt joined that company’s Board of Directors, where he still serves.
Charitable and Volunteer Work
“Ted Thranhardt…has done so much for the field that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the time and effort he has given all of the organizations in the field. Ted is only one of two people that have served as president of the Academy, ABC, and AOPA. In addition, he went through all the ‘chairs’ in each organization, which is a total of 15 years. That is an enormous commitment of time and effort. …
“He is equally generous with his support of many charitable activities…. [H]e has sponsored the Thranhardt lecture series,… the Thranhardt Golf Classic,… [and] numerous other charitable endeavors outside the field.
“On the private side, he ran Hanger Southeast and made it the largest provider in the southeastern United States; SPS…certainly flourished under his leadership. Although he grew up in the field as a practitioner, I believe one of his greatest contributions was to bring business principles to the practice of O&P.
“On the personal side, I am proud to call Ted one of my best friends.” Read more…
During his career, Thranhardt has spent time doing volunteer work for the Easter Seals; the Center for Rehabilitation Technology (renamed the Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access [CATEA] in 2001) at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), including a stint as chairman of the Board; a three-year project for China through the Carter Foundation’s Global 2000; and for a research project in Kenya. He and his wife, Loretta, also made a generous donation and headed up a challenge drive to raise funds for the renovation and upgrade of the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC) library in 2000.
Hanger Southeast launched the Thranhardt Lecture Series with a gift in memory of Thranhardt’s father, Howard Thranhardt, CP. The series recognizes excellence in educational programming at the Academy Annual Meeting and AOPA Assembly.
Thranhardt was honored by the Orthotic and Prosthetic Assistance Fund Inc. (OPAF) in 2003 when it named its popular fundraising golf tourney the “Thranhardt Golf Classic.” Joel Kempfer, CP, FAAOP, OPAF president at the time says, “Since OPAF’s establishment in 1995 as the official philanthropy of the O&P community, the Thranhardt family has unselfishly devoted their resources to the sustenance of our organization. The profession of orthotics and prosthetics is truly indebted to people like Mr. Thranhardt and his family who have so generously given of their time, talent, and resources to make a difference in the world.
“As golf is one of Mr. Thranhardt’s many passions, we thought it fitting to add the Thranhardt name to our event in order to recognize perpetually his generosity and his commitment to the mission of OPAF and its representation of O&P in community and philanthropic circles.”
An Active ‘Retirement’
“I had the distinct opportunity of serving the Academy and our profession with Ted in several capacities since its inception in 1970 and then on the Academy Board during his term as president in 1976-77. …the one thing that always impressed me about Ted was that aside from any political differences we may have had, he never let them stand in the way of the personal friendship we had developed working together on the Academy Board. …The profession clearly benefited from his valued leadership!” Read more…
Although he is “retired,” Thranhardt, who has been in O&P for 48 years, says, “I would like to finish a full 50 years before thinking of getting out completely.” He chairs the Hanger Board’s Quality and Technology Committee, and notes, “I have many friends in the field and have an opportunity to see a few patients with them from time to time.” With his daughter, Debbie Sweeney, CPO, the fourth generation of the family in O&P, “I have an opportunity to talk business and politics from the sideline.”
Thranhardt’s retirement sounds as active as his career, as he enjoys fly fishing, kayaking, snowmobiling, and woodworking and carving.
Besides Debbie, Thranhardt’s other children include Toni Rees, Paul Thranhardt, and Karen Dinsmore. He has four grandchildren, Chad and Jared Rees, Blake and Allison Sweeney, and one great-grandchild, Dane Sweeney.
The Future of O&P
|Tom Watson, Rudy Becker, and Ted at a Thranhardt Classic Golf Tourney.|
Thranhardt has seen sweeping changes in O&P. When he started, he says he was “initially interested in the craft of prosthetics. There were virtually no mass-produced parts for the field, so we handmade each component.” The high-tech solutions now available-microprocessor-controlled prostheses, myoelectrics, and even thought-controlled prosthetic limbs-would have astounded the practitioners and their patients of that era, he says.
When asked what he sees in the future for O&P, Thranhardt answers, “With the aging population in the US and the world, more and more people will need our products and services. There will be advances in medicine, surgery, products, computers, communication, and delivery. This is good and bad. In a quest for offsetting government reimbursement, many people in the rehabilitation field are shortcutting the patients. At some time the government will need to determine whether they are in the business of cheap’ or healthcare.’
“Our task, as patient care givers, is to support the organizations who are working with the government to understand our patients’ needs, to work on a local level to educate the state government and local media, to help local and national support groups tell their stories, and stay on top of new innovations that enhance the quality of life for our customers/patients. While doing all this, we must manage our business efficiently to provide the best for our customers and our investments.”
“I have known Ted literally my entire career, which is now almost 40 years… Ted always exemplified a true leadership quality in reaching out to others for their input and ideas… The one quality that stands out most of all is Ted’s generosity, not only of his knowledge but also his financial resources to our field and those in need. It’s people like Ted that make me proud to be associated with Hanger and our prosthetic and orthotic profession.” Read more…
Ivan R. Sabel
He outlines several pieces of advice for those entering the O&P field:
“Remember, You cannot do good until you do well.’
“Making a profit is not bad-it is necessary!
“Get all the education you can. It is the one thing that cannot be taken from you. Get more education! Study management, electronics, computer science-anything!
“Consider volunteering for something. It does take time-make time for it. If you are thinking of becoming involved in one of the associations, start with committee work so you can see how much time is involved in going through the chairs. Do a good job while you are there. You will make friends with people you never dreamed. You will share moments of triumph and despair. You will do good-but only after you have done well enough to afford the time and energy.”
Ted Thranhardt has much to look back on in an outstanding career. But he’s not one to live in the past, as he forges ahead to more activity and accomplishments.
Ted Thranhardt’s Colleagues Comment
Many of Ted Thranhardt’s colleagues through the years have expressed appreciation for his contribution to the O&P field. Here are some of them:
|“Ted is a very dear friend of mine. I have known Ted for many years. Being from families that have multiple generations in our profession, we cannot help but have a special bond. While at times we were competitors, we were always close friends. At other times, maybe at business meetings, we did not see eye-to-eye politically, but when the door would close, I could always call Ted a true friend.
“The contributions that Ted has made to our profession in the past have had a profound and lasting impact not only for the O&P professionals but also for countless patients from all over the globe. Ted’s passion for quality patient care has been his guiding goal. This can be seen in his actions and accomplishments as president of all three of the major organizations in our profession: ABC, AOPA [American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association] and the Academy [American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists]. His willingness to donate his time in the past to so many various organizations is unmatched. If ever there was an individual to set the standard of contributing to our profession, it is Ted Thranhardt.
“Now that Ted is so-called ‘retired,’ do not think he is still not contributing to our profession. He and his wife, Loretta, still contribute to so many organizations and causes. He is a perpetual leader in our profession, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to call him a friend and mentor. Every O&P professional today owes Ted a word of thanks for his unselfish contributions of time, guidance and money. THANK YOU, Ted!”
“I have known Ted literally my entire career, which is now almost 40 years. I first served with Ted during his various affiliations with our field’s associations where he was one of our leaders. Ted always exemplified a true leadership quality in reaching out to others for their input and ideas. Later in our association, I had the privilege of purchasing J.E. Hanger South and SPS of which Ted was an owner. During that negotiation, Ted displayed the qualities of high integrity, honesty, and a sense of fair play. Since 1995, Ted has served on [Hanger’s] Board of Directors and has been an invaluable asset in helping me here at Hanger.
“The one quality that stands out most of all is Ted’s generosity, not only of his knowledge but also his financial resources to our field and those in need. “It’s people like Ted that make me proud to be associated with Hanger and our prosthetic and orthotic profession.”
Ivan R. Sabel, CPO
, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Hanger Orthopedic Group, Bethesda, Maryland, and a former president of ABC.
|“No question about it-Ted’s contribution to the O&P field has been top-drawer. He and Ronney Snell are the only persons who have served as president of all three major O&P organizations. He and his wife Loretta also contributed substantially to Northwestern’s O&P library.
“I’ve known Ted for 35 years or more and consider him one of my best friends.” We’ve also had some great times playing golf and fishing together.”
“I had the distinct opportunity of serving the Academy and our profession with Ted in several capacities since its inception in 1970 and then on the Academy Board during his term as President in 1976-77. We both transitioned away from O&P leadership positions within a year of one another, he in 1994 as the outgoing president of AOPA and I as president of the Academy following a second term as president in 1995. During our years of service, there were a good many times when the leadership in our national organizations were not in agreement with one another over a variety of issues, and our coexistence within the then O&P National Office…challenged several long-standing relationships. Despite this, the one thing that always impressed me about Ted was that aside from any political differences we may have had, he never let them stand in the way of the personal friendship we had developed working together on the Academy Board. I have always respected him for that, as well as his respect for my opinion, which at times may have been viewed by others as being like mixing oil and water. He has always been a man of his word, and you always knew where he stood on any issue. Because of this, he is one of the few individuals in leadership who has been elected to serve on the board and as president of all three of our national O&P organizations. The profession clearly benefited from his valued leadership!”
John Billock, CPO, FAAOP, clinical/executive director of the Orthotics & Prosthetics Rehabilitation Engineering Centre, Warren, Ohio, and a past president of the Academy.
|“Ted Thranhardt…has done so much for the field that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the time and effort he has given all of the organizations in the field. Ted is only one of two people that have served as president of the Academy, ABC, and AOPA. In addition, he went through all the ‘chairs’ in each organization, which is a total of 15 years. That is an enormous commitment of time and effort. He also served as chairman of the National Office Board. He has served on countless committees in each of these organizations. In addition to his own commitment, he has always encouraged and supported his employees to give their time and effort to the organizations.
“He is equally generous with his support of many charitable activities. Within the field he has sponsored the Thranhardt lecture series to stimulate excellence in our scientific programs. He sponsors the Thranhardt Golf Classic to benefit the amputee sports programs. He supports numerous other charitable endeavors outside the field.
“On the personal side, I am proud to call Ted one of my best friends. He is very multifaceted. I first got to know him because we shared an interest in fly fishing. In addition, he likes to bird hunt and snowmobile. Over the years he has had a multitude of hobbies, including glass blowing, and I believe he was a clown for the Shriners at one point. His hand skills as a prosthetist led him to woodworking and woodcarving, two activities he still enjoys. Ted and I have both learned to tolerate golf: most days he tolerates it a little better than I do.”