Edward A. Eckenhoff is the Founder, and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Rehabilitation Hospital. He currently serves as President Emeritus of NRH.
Eckenhoff received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Transylvania University in Kentucky. He completed a master’s degree in education at the University of Kentucky and subsequently a master’s degree in healthcare administration at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Before coming to Washington, D.C., he was Vice President and Administrator at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
While in college, Eckenhoff suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed – a personal experience that fueled his desire to improve healthcare for all persons with disabilities. Two exuberant friends embark on a spontaneous road trip. But the joyous excursion ends tragically. One friend dies instantly and the other – Ed Eckenhoff – has his life changed forever. This was in 1963, and the surviving college junior learned a critical life lesson the hardest way: Adversity is the ultimate measure of resilience – from the most difficult challenges come our greatest victories.
The accident left then 20-year-old Eckenhoff with paraplegia. The former football player and shot putter was now paralyzed from the waist down. But instead of looking back, he used his enormous upper body strength honed in sports to learn to walk on crutches. He learned to transcend the incident that transformed his life.
As the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of NRH, Eckenhoff ultimately built a unique healthcare institution that has helped thousands of people follow his example.
Over the years, Eckenhoff’s leadership in the healthcare field has been recognized by various organizations. The American Medical Association awarded him the Citation of a Layman for Distinguished Service, the highest honor it bestows on a non-physician. He received the 1995 Meritorious Award from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation and the Brent England Exceptional Leadership Award from the American Hospital Association. In 1989, he was named "Washingtonian of the Year" by Washingtonian magazine. In 2001, Eckenhoff received the Regent’s Award from the American College of Healthcare Executives and was named “Alumnus of the Year” by Washington University School of Medicine, Hospital Administration Program. Transylvania University has bestowed an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters upon him along with their Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2003, Eckenhoff received the B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Award. And in 2009, the NRH Board of Directors presented him their annual award.