During his sixteen-month career as a family physician, Souderton native Dr. Norman Loux recognized that many of his patients had “emotional problems.” This sparked his interest in psychiatry and ultimately his residencies at Butler Hospital (Providence, Rhode Island) and Yale University. Dr. Loux was serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Butler Hospital when he was asked to return to his home community to establish psychiatric services in the early 1950s.
During World War II, many Mennonites had registered as Conscientious Objectors and completed alternative service in mental institutions. They openly shared their experiences in such institutions, describing the conditions as “deplorable” and “barbaric.” As people learned of these conditions, they felt the need for long-term reform which would guarantee humane care. Understanding the importance of establishing locally provided psychiatric services, Michael Peters, MD, Chair of Medicine at Grand View Hospital, worked with community leaders to articulate and address that need.
Dr. Loux took these experiences to heart as he penned a white paper in 1954 which outlined his vision for a community-based psychiatric facility. This forward-thinking white paper is a living example of the brilliance and creativity of a man far ahead of his time, and it still influences Penn Foundation today.
Dr. Loux saw his first psychiatric patient at his Souderton office in October 1955. The next year, when the farm across from Grand View Hospital came up for sale, the Board purchased it for $19,000. The property, on which Penn Foundation still stands today, became the home of Dr. Loux's psychiatry practice and was renamed The Penn Foundation for Mental Health.
In the mid-1960s, Penn Foundation was used by the Kennedy Administration as a model of what a community mental health center should look like. In 1965, Dr. Robert H. Felix, advisor to President Kennedy and Founder/ Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, spoke to Penn Foundation supporters, saying, “If I were to select a half-dozen community mental health centers that nearly approach the dream I dreamed, not only would Penn Foundation be included, it would be one of the top three. Not only is it the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania, it is a model for the country and the world.”
The spirit of volunteerism has always been an integral part of Penn Foundation’s story. From the beginning, Esther Loux and the wives of the founding Board members worked to ensure that Penn Foundation had what was needed to serve the community. They hosted events, cleaned, decorated, and provided furniture for the new headquarters in the farmhouse. Those early efforts formed the foundation of the Women’s Auxiliary. Their example of selfless dedication fostered a legacy of volunteer service that benefits Penn Foundation to this day.
Dr. Loux served as Medical Director until 1981 and retired from seeing patients in 1984. He remained on the Board of Directors until 2008 and passed away in 2010.