New Fellowship honors leader’s legacy, leadership diversity

James W. Butler III
Tolulope Adedokun

Published: Nov. 16, 2020

LANSING, MI – The daughter of Nigerian immigrants has been named Sparrow’s first James W. Butler III Fellow, honoring the life and legacy of a community leader who had an immense impact on Sparrow and Mid-Michigan.

Tolulope Adedokun said she’s humbled to be part of such a community-driven health system and is particularly interested in improving access to healthcare. She said she’s always been part of a “health family,” with two sisters in healthcare and her mother as a nurse.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people. My parents pushed us to do things bigger than ourselves,” she said.

Adedokun, who holds a master’s degree in Healthcare Services and Administration from Georgia Southern University, is the first Butler Fellow, a one-year post graduate administrative fellowship for racially diverse candidates. Sparrow created the Fellowship in part to address the need for diversity and inclusion in healthcare leadership, a major issue throughout the country.

The Fellowship is a hands-on learning opportunity in which recipients are assigned a variety of administrative duties at Sparrow Health System designed to prepare them for healthcare management and leadership.

It was named for the longtime member of the Sparrow Board of Directors, James W. Butler III, who died on Aug. 7. Butler championed access to high quality care for the most vulnerable and led efforts toward the state’s first medical clinic for the homeless. He received the 2018 Sparrow Founders’ Award, the highest honor bestowed by the health system.

Butler was also a major force in local community activities and was a decorated military veteran who dedicated his life to others.

“I feel that this fellowship in James’s memory puts into concrete actionable steps what James always wanted us to be – to improve the diversity of healthcare leadership,” said James F. Dover, President and CEO of Sparrow Health System.

“I learned early in my career that diversity is fundamental to healthcare leadership and it requires particular attention to bring to reality. We want to break the glass ceiling while honoring James’s leadership in this area.”

The Fellowship is a lasting legacy of Butler’s community service and involvement said John Pirich, chairman of the Sparrow Health System Board of Directors.

“This fellowship will honor his commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, which he practiced on a daily basis,” Pirich said. “This will present an opportunity for young professionals to learn and excel at Sparrow Health System.”

Rishan Maxwell Butler, Butler’s wife of 52 years, praised Sparrow for helping keep alive “James’s philosophy of giving back to the community and joining with the family to keep his legacy and memory going forward.”

What would this have meant to her husband? “What he was trying to achieve has been acknowledged. What he did was not in vain.

“He used to always say the good speaks for you, and this fellowship speaks for James.”

Adedokun will start in January and will report directly to the President and CEO of Sparrow Health System.


Sparrow Health System is Mid-Michigan’s premier healthcare organization and includes hospitals in Lansing, Carson City, Charlotte, Ionia and St. Johns, as well as Sparrow Specialty Hospital, Physicians Health Plan, Sparrow Care Network, Sparrow Medical Group, the Michigan Athletic Club, and AL!VE. Sparrow is affiliated with Michigan Medicine through the Sparrow Children’s Center and with Michigan State University’s three human health colleges. Through these partnerships and the dedication of our 10,000 caregivers, Sparrow pursues a vision to be nationally recognized as a leader in quality and patient experience. For more information, visit