Edwin Charles Saiontz, a highly-regarded health care expert and co-founder of SHR Associates Inc., died Thursday of multiple organ failure at his Boynton Beach, Fla., home. The longtime Pikesville resident was 77.

The son of a lawyer and a homemaker, Edwin Charles Saiontz, who was known as Ed, was born in Glen Rock, Pa., and raised in Woodmoor.

After graduating from Forest Park High School in 1953, he worked for Nation-Wide Check Corp. in Glen Burnie while studying at night at Baltimore Junior College and later at the University of Baltimore, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business.

Mr. Saiontz then went to work for Community Health Services, a locally owned and operated chain of nursing facilities, and rose to become the company's chief financial officer. He was instrumental in getting the firm listed on the American Stock Exchange.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Saiontz joined the staff of the Lutheran Hospital in West Baltimore, where he was executive vice president and treasurer.

During his tenure at Lutheran, he played a pivotal role in the development of Roland Park Place, a retirement community that opened in 1984.

In 1979, Lutheran Hospital co-partnered with the First Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Home and Hospital Association to develop an eight-acre site on West 40th Street in Baltimore, which had been the campus of Roland Park Country School.

Mr. Saiontz served as treasurer of Roland Park Place for more than 20 years.

He returned to college at what is now Loyola University of Maryland, where he earned a master's in business in 1980. Family members said he was a member of the school's "RxMBA program," which offered a degree in the health care field.

At Loyola, Mr. Saiontz met a fellow student who also worked in health care.

"I got to know Ed in the RxMBA program," said Nancy R. Smit. "We entered in 1978 and sat next to each other. We were the first class to earn that degree, plus we both had connections to the health care field."

Continued Ms. Smit: "Ed loved business. He was romantic about it. He was also a brilliant guy. He felt earning an MBA gave him the credentials to start his own company and convinced me that we should start a company together.

"He said doctors needed help. This was a time before managed care, HMOs and even computers. He saw the handwriting on the wall," she said.

In 1980, the partners established SHR Associates Inc., a health care consulting firm that helps physicians build their practices. Their first office was on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville. The firm later moved to Towson and Timonium, and for the last eight years has been based in Annapolis.

SHR Associates Inc. today is recognized as a leading medical consulting firm that helped pioneer the rise and expansion of physician-owned medical practice groups.

"Ed wanted this program to be nothing less than top-notch and state-of-the-art. He wanted to do good and big things. He was a visionary," said Ms. Smit, who has headed the company since Mr. Saiontz's retirement in 1999.

"He was a very persuasive guy, yet very, very charming and engaging. He loved people," she said. "He was tough and hard-driving but had a great sense of humor and loved telling stories. He was a great spinner of yarns."

She described Mr. Saiontz as "being meticulous and wanting everything perfect."

"When he was pitching hospital administrators or a large group of physicians, he worked particularly hard to find the right phrases that he felt would be a clincher," said Ms. Smit.

Among its numerous clients, SHR Associates Inc. is the exclusive consulting group for the Maryland State Medical Society.

"Ed also loved Baltimore," Ms. Smit said.

An avid sports fans, Mr. Saiontz had season tickets to the Clippers, Bullets and Baltimore Colts. He was also an Orioles and Ravens fan.

Mr. Saiontz, who had a second home in Boynton Beach, played golf at Chestnut Ridge Country Club and Sparrows Point Country Club, where he was a member.

"His real hobby was work. He loved to work," said his high school sweetheart and wife of 56 years, the former Jane Carol Phelps.

The Pikesville resident was a longtime active member of Temple Oheb Shalom.

Services will be held at noon today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Saiontz is survived by a son, Steve Saiontz of Miami; a daughter, Susie Nevins of Pikesville; a sister, Charmaine Saiontz of Pikesville; and 10 grandchildren.

Fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com