In a healthcare career that spanned nearly half a century, Sister Irene Kraus was known as a strong leader, both fiscally and spiritually. As founding president and chief executive officer of the Daughters of Charity National Health System, St. Louis—which became a national powerhouse upon its creation in 1986—Kraus was an influential and charismatic advocate for not-for-profit healthcare, serving in the top job at the Daughters system until 1992. In 1980, she was named the first chairwoman of the American Hospital Association's board of trustees, and also served as board chairwoman of the Catholic Health Association in 1972.
An elementary and high school teacher in her early years as a nun, Kraus decided to pursue a degree in nursing, which marked the beginning of her healthcare ministry. She advanced through the ranks of healthcare management, including several stints as a hospital administrator, ultimately being named head of the newly formed Daughters national system. Kraus died in 1998 at the age of 74 of complications from cancer. "During her long and dedicated life as a Daughter of Charity, she touched the lives of many," said Daughters' then-President and CEO Don Brennan in a memo announcing Kraus' death.