N.C. Memorial Hospital, which was created in the wake of World War II and whose name is meant to honor North Carolinians who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces, will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in an Aug. 15 ceremony.
“N.C. Memorial Hospital is operated for and by the people of North Carolina,” said Dr. William L. Roper, CEO of the UNC Health Care System and dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “This ceremony will serve as a reminder, both to those of us who work at UNC Hospitals and to all North Carolinians, of that very important mission.”
Memorial Hospital was the original building in what is now the UNC Hospitals complex in Chapel Hill. It was built as part of the Good Health Plan, an ambitious effort launched by the state in the late 1940s to improve the health of North Carolinians. The Good Health Plan was inspired in part by the fact that more young men from North Carolina were found medically unfit for military service in World War II than those from any other state.
Memorial Hospital was dedicated to veterans in 1952. A plaque hanging in the Memorial lobby reads: “To serve as a continuing memorial to those who have given their lives, and who may hereafter give their lives, as members of the armed forces in protecting the freedom and common welfare of their fellow citizens.”
The need for an expanded medical program was dire in North Carolina at the end of the war. At the war’s conclusion, the N.C. Hospital and Medical Care Commission recommended that North Carolina build new community hospitals and modernize existing ones.
The commission called for expanding the two-year medical education program at UNC into a four-year School of Medicine. They also recommended building a large general hospital to be affiliated with the medical school.
The recommendations might have never gotten off the ground were it not for the work of Dr. Walter Reece Berryhill ’21, then dean of the School of Medicine, who organized the movement that became known as the “Good Health Plan.”
The movement involved faculty, alumni, politicians and members of the public. Promotional efforts also were mounted to spread the message of the Good Health Plan. Among the most effective messages involved a song, It’s All Up to You, recorded by Kay Kyser ’27 and his band. Two young singers, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore, provided vocals for the track and the song was a hit statewide.
The Legislature approved the Good Health Plan in 1947, and it was decided that the new hospital would be located on the UNC campus. The first four-year class arrived at the School of Medicine in 1950, and the class’s clinical education began in 1952, the same year Memorial Hospital opened its doors.
Now 60 years after the end of World War II and more than 50 years since the opening of N.C. Memorial Hospital, UNC Health Care seeks to reaffirm its mission to serve the people of North Carolina while at the same time recognizing the sacrifices of those veterans who have made that mission possible.
With that in mind, during the reception on Aug. 15, there will be a new sign hanging above the original plaque in the Memorial Hospital lobby, reading: “Operated for and by the People of North Carolina.”
The Aug. 15 ceremony begins at 2 p.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. The ceremony’s keynote speaker will be retired Maj. Gen. H. Douglas Robertson, who in 37 years of service held a variety of command positions at company, battalion, brigade and division levels. He received several awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal. He completed his command tenure in March 2003 and retired in January 2004. In civilian life, Robertson is the director of the Highway Safety Research Center at UNC. He also serves as the director of the Department of Defense-sponsored Citizen-Soldier Support Program, a community-based effort to assist military families.
Other speakers will include Roland Giduz ’48 and Robert Patton. Giduz served in Company C of the 399th Infantry Regiment of the 100th Infantry Division in WW II. He received the Purple Heart. Giduz is currently a member of the Chapel Hill American Legion, Post 6. Patton served in the 2nd Battalion of the 261st Infantry Regiment of the 65th Division under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Patton is a member of the Chapel Hill American Legion, Post 6; the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9100; the 65th Division Association and the Chapel Hill Historical Society.