Pilgrim Place CEO ready for community to thrive next 100 years

Ann Schiff, the newly appointed CEO of Pilgrim Place, is making sure the retirement community will thrive well into the next 100 years.

Ms. Schiff, who is Jewish, is the first woman to be the President/CEO and the first head administrator who doesn’t belong to the United Church of Christ. Despite the notable distinction, Ms. Schiff—who began her post on January 11—insists it will have little bearing on how she’ll lead the community.

“Everybody has been accepting and they’ve welcomed me,” Ms. Schiff said. “They had choices and I was the one they selected. So I’m sure it’s just a time for some change here at Pilgrim Place, not major things but maybe a different point of view.”

A Washington, DC native, Ms. Schiff was previously the executive director of Ingleside at Rock Creek, a retirement community outside the nation’s capital that, like Pilgrim Place, started out as a Presbyterian community but evolved over time to accept nondenominational residents.

“It was a lot of foreign service, a lot of people who had been ambassadors, a lot of people who devoted their lives to public service,” Ms. Schiff said of Ingleside’s residents. “And a lot of them felt like Washington would be a great home base when they retired, which made sense because they were used to places where things were happening and they’re involved in politics. So a lot of similarities to Pilgrim Place.”

Ms. Schiff first got involved in senior care after finishing her master’s degree in health services administration at The George Washington University. She gravitated toward her career in part because of her family history, which boasts several generations of descendants who lived to reach 100 years old.

She chose administration, she says, because of the big impact one can make and the opportunity to reach many different areas of senior care.

In all, she has been in her field for 35 years.

“Dealing with seniors to me is a joy,” Ms. Schiff said. “Not too many people end up working in a field they went to school for.”

Pilgrim Place recently celebrated its centennial in December, and Ms. Schiff noted she is looking toward the future.

“I’ve been talking with the board and saying we’ve been here for 100 years…we want to make sure we’re here in perpetuity,” Ms. Schiff said.

This means working to the best of her abilities to ensure that the essence of Pilgrim Place will continue.

“It’s much harder these days to keep single-site communities going,” Ms. Schiff said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t. But you have to do your strategic planning and looking at where we’ve been and where we want to be in five years, ten years, 100 years so that it’s always available to people.”

But she knows she has a few challenges in the years ahead, especially when an entire generation is rapping at the door of retirement age.

“Baby Boomers will be coming, and everything you read about Baby Boomers is that for the majority of them, they kind of live for today and will worry about tomorrow later, so they won’t have the same kind of resources as their parents did,” Ms. Schiff said. “And looking at how we incorporate those individuals who will want to and need to be at a community like Pilgrim Place, how do we plan for that?”

In the meantime, Ms. Schiff is settling nicely in the Claremont area. She is looking to close on a house in north La Verne, 15 minutes from Pilgrim Place (Coming from her daily commute on the DC Beltway, Ms. Schiff is looking forward the short drive). Her husband, Steve, is in the middle of closing his practice and moving to California with her.

In fact, Ms. Schiff got a true California welcome during her first few days in Claremont.

“The first day that I got here, it was pouring rain and they warned me there was a drought,” Ms. Schiff said. “And then there was a minor earthquake. And I was like, ‘terrific!’”

Earthquakes aside, Ms. Schiff has found a lot to like about the City of Trees, remarking that the quaintness of the Village reminds her of New England towns she is more familiar with. She has quickly taken a liking to the Pilgrims, and marvels at how involved they are in nearly every facet of local culture.

“That was one of the things that attracted me to here—these residents go and protest for peace and stuff like that, and they’re involved with the colleges because they believe in training the next generation so that, hopefully, we can have fewer wars and incidents so we can have a better planet,” Ms. Schiff said. “They’re very involved with keeping the community green. It’s not exactly what people see on TV as what retirement is.”

In her first month at Pilgrim Place, Ms. Schiff has relaxed into a job she feels is beneficial for her and for the community she serves.

“I think it’s going to be a good fit,” she said. “Already, I feel like I’m at home, and it’s a nice thing.”


—Matthew Bramlett



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