Mark Vanderbeck turned 60 on Aug. 5, but his birthday gift arrived five days earlier, in the form of a promotion - to chief executive officer of ACTS Retirement-Life Communities.

It's a big job. Based in West Point, ACTS employs 6,200 and operates 23 retirement communities - with housing ranging from independent apartment living to skilled nursing care for 8,500 residents.

Question: What's it like to become a newly minted CEO? Did you feel anxious when you realized - "Wow, I'm responsible for all these people and all these employees"?

Answer: You have that weight of responsibility, but it feels really good. Candidly, it's what I've done my whole life.

Q: You held the number-two job for years. What's the difference between that and the CEO's work?

A: The job I was in was very much from an operations standpoint. Certainly, as you move from number two to number one, you go from detail-oriented to more of a big picture [view], driving a strategic vision of the company.

Q: ACTS started in 1971 as a church-run business. How does Christianity manifest itself in management?

A: One of the things we've developed is the ACTS culture of loving kindness. That's a matter of what's in the code of conduct - what's the standard as to how you deal with residents and how you relate to employees. It actually comes out of some Biblical scriptures that are in the Book of Jeremiah.

Q: How does loving kindness play out if you have to fire an employee?

A: We certainly want to approach it from a standpoint of Christian values. The scripture also speaks to righteousness. It's always doing the right thing.

Q: Your company serves middle-class and upper-middle-class residents. Wouldn't it be more Christian to serve the poor?

A: It's one of the things in our strategic plan. One focus is whether we can partner with a group or whether we have the ability to develop affordable housing on our own.

Q: What if an employee or resident isn't Christian?

A: It's very much nondenominational as far as our mission practices or policies.

Q: Your grandfather and father were preachers. What was it like growing up as a preacher's kid?

A: If you have two kids, there is always the good one and there is always the one they were concerned about. My sister was the good one. The pastor's up there [at the pulpit] and everyone is watching the kids to see how they behave.

Q: Was your father disappointed that you didn't go into the ministry?

A: I remember being in the car and I said something like, "Dad, I don't think I'm called to be a pastor." He said, "There's all kinds of congregations." I've always felt that this work is my ministry.

Q: You tower over most of us, at 6 feet, 9 inches. Does height matter for a CEO?

A: Sometimes people see it as an intimidating factor. On the good side, sometimes you are being perceived in a strong way.

Q: Unlike some tall men, you don't hunch.

A: My mother was very tall for a woman, and the lesson was, "Stand up straight. Be proud of how tall you are."

Q: In a business where single women outnumber men, you are a bachelor, never married. Do lots of ladies flirt with you?

A: (laughing) I don't think so. That's funny. You do reach a certain age where it looks like you'll never get married.


Title: Chief executive, ACTS Retirement-Life Communities.

Home: Montgomeryville.

Status: Single.

Diplomas: Conestoga High School; Bloomsburg University, business, finance.

Resume: Has always worked in senior housing. Started at ACTS in 1998.

After work: Retires to the "man cave" in his basement to watch sports.

Saturdays: Shopping at Wegmans for week's take-home meals.

Sundays: Active at Grace Baptist Church, Blue Bell.


ACTS Retirement-Life Communities

Headquarters: West Point, Montgomery County.

What: Nonprofit owner, developer, operator of 23 continuing-care communities for 8,500 seniors in eight states.

Nearby: Eight communities in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Assets: $1 billion plus.

Employees: 6,200; 2,500 locally.