Werner G. Nistler Jr.
Founder and Chairman
Touchmark at Emerald Lake
Werner Nistler, Jr. is passionate about three things: family and friends, faith in God, and Touchmark. His commitment to all three drives his desire to upend an institutional approach to senior care and reimagine it into communities brimming with the same hospitality, opportunity, and hope he would want for his own family.
Over the years, he has started and grown a variety of businesses, including Touchmark, which develops and operates full-service retirement communities. The continuum of services includes independent and assisted living, early dementia support, memory care, home health, home care, skilled nursing/long-term care, and health and fitness clubs. Currently, there are 13 Touchmark communities in the U.S. and Canada. Werner has served as Chairman of Touchmark since he founded the company in 1980. For 35 years, he also served as CEO.
The name Touchmark is derived from the practice of pewter artisans putting their “mark” on the work they created. Werner’s personal, family, and company reputation stands behind everything Touchmark has created over the past many decades.
Raised on a North Dakota farm with nine siblings, Werner and his brothers and sisters attended a one-room school serving all grades. He learned his work ethic from the grit it took for the family to scratch out a living between hailstorms, wind, and drought—an uncompromising upbringing that instilled perseverance.
Werner credits his early work experience in providing the skill set to grow Touchmark into the thriving top-ranked company it is today. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Dakota (UND) and a Master of Science in Accounting from Arizona State University. His early jobs include bagging groceries as a teen, tending bar and teaching accounting while in grad school, and turning around and managing officers’ clubs in both the U.S. and Korea following college. Werner also worked for Arthur Andersen & Co., starting in the auditing department, then moving to small businesses, and finally to the tax department.
A Certified Public Accountant at the time, Werner formed the idea for Touchmark when he served as Secretary-Treasurer for Roderick Enterprises, a chain of retirement communities and nursing centers. There, he created balance sheets from actual shoeboxes filled with financial receipts and then implemented state-of-the-art financial systems. As he traveled, he was saddened by the couples who couldn't stay together as one had more needs. He believed there had to be a better way. Werner had an inspiring vision: to build a retirement community where couples could stay together in their remaining years and not only receive the continuum of services they may need but also live a life enriched by community, hospitality, lifelong learning, and spiritual fulfillment, while remaining as active as possible.
Aging in place with dignity and hospitality drive Werner's approach to how Touchmark delivers its continuum of services and enriching programs. When his parents' health declined, they weren't able to get the quality of care needed, so Werner began a community in Bismarck to offer people "the full life they deserved." While his parents passed before it was finished, this heightened his resolve to provide people a quality place to retire close to their roots and family.
Werner's vision to approach senior living through the lens of hospitality is the key to Touchmark's success. Visiting a Touchmark community immediately makes it clear Werner has rethought the proposition of retirement. He, along with dedicated staff, pioneered the groundbreaking and award-winning Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™ that is at the heart of each community.
Werner also founded and serves on the board of the Touchmark Foundation, a 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to enhancing the well-being of seniors. The Foundation’s longstanding charitable efforts are awarding nursing scholarships to students and teachers in the nursing field and providing food boxes during the holidays to help alleviate hunger among seniors and families in need. It also supports university research and is currently donating funds to Washington State University College of Nursing to support research in the use of in-home sensors to monitor the health and safety of older adults.
Werner is constantly seeking to launch new ventures to bring enrichment to people's lives. In 2013, he, along with his wife Colleen, teamed up with winemakers Matt and Nancy Vuylsteke to launch Swede Hill Vineyards adjacent to Touchmark in the West Hills in Portland, Oregon. In 2017, the couple opened The Finn™ Restaurant to rave reviews at Touchmark at The Ranch in Prescott, Arizona. Both of these endeavors are resident amenities designed to aid in lifting the stigma of retirement communities and reimagining them into communities where people thrive.
Werner is a perfectionist in execution, persistent in his long-term focus, and always an innovator. Numerous awards attest to his innovation and high standards, but his greatest reward is the satisfaction of residents, staff, and families.
Among Werner’s other enterprises are Computran, a medical records processing company that transcribed and centralized prescriptions, significantly reducing medical errors, and Dynatran, a desktop version of the medical records business. Werner also acquired KBLG 910 AM in Billings, Montana, after it went off the air circa 1980, with the thought that he could create a history channel and bring radio programming into the retirement communities. He nurtured the station back to life, and it continues to operate today under ESPN.
Werner also helped organize and became Chairman of the Board of the Beaverton Banking Company, a state-chartered bank that merged with Valley National Bank, where he continued as a Board member before selling to U.S. Bank. He also has served on the Board of Directors for Capital Pacific Bank. In October 2017, Werner was inducted into the University of North Dakota Accounting Hall of Fame.
In 2018, Werner Nistler received the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award in the Lifetime Entrepreneur category in the Pacific Northwest. The award recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. He also was named a national finalist in the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2018 Award in the Real Estate, Hospitality, and Construction category.
Werner is very active in his church. He has served on the Board of Trustees for Jesuit High School, Valley Catholic Capital Campaign, and the Catholic Charities Cabinet.
Always humble, Werner is quick to attribute the success of his many innovative accomplishments to others who have helped over the years, including his parents and others present during his early years in North Dakota, his professors at UND, his wife Colleen and their six children, longtime colleagues Tom Biel and Tom Moe, brother Steve Nistler, Touchmark CEO Marcus Breuer, and all the allies, givers, and friends who have been part of his life.
"Physical fitness is very important to me as well as something I enjoy. This photo captures me participating in one portion of a local triathlon."
- Werner Nistler