The Board of Trustees meeting for January 15, 1946, appears to be
routine, judging from the minutes on file in the University
Archives. But one agenda item was to prove far from routine
— and would take nearly three decades
Board members that day voted on
resignations and appointments of faculty and staff, approved the
retirement of long-time faculty member Howard Seckerson, professor
of English, and a pay raise for J.O. Christian, associate professor
of physical education and football coach.
They also asked President
Albert Jorgensen to write an appropriate letter to G. Safford
Torrey, professor of botany, on completion of 30 years of
Then, toward the end of the meeting
- held in Hartford, as most board meetings were at that time -
Jorgensen discussed a letter he had received from Gov. Raymond
Baldwin, dated Dec. 6, 1945. It was the prelude to what would
become the UConn Health Center.
Trustees voted "to make a
careful study of the entire situation," and a committee of
three was appointed.
The study group included two new board
members, Creighton Barker, a New Haven physician, and Edward A.
Suisman of West Hartford, along with J. Raymond Ryan, an alumni
trustee elected in 1944. Barker was named chair.
It was a year before the three
reported back - and theirs was just the first of more than a
half-dozen studies by the State. Less than two months into the
committee's work, trustees learned that Jorgensen had received
a letter from Gov. Baldwin "regarding the interest of the
Connecticut Dental Association in the establishment of a Dental
School as part of the University."
They referred the matter to
the Creighton committee.
The report was accepted by the board
at its meeting on Jan. 15, 1947, and placed on file with the
minutes. Basic to the report, said committee members, was the
definition of 'need'.
"If need is defined as a
necessity for medical education to prepare additional physicians
for public service in Connecticut, the answer is in the
negative," the committee reported.
"At no time in recent
years or in the foreseeable future will Connecticut be
under-supplied with physicians.
"If need is defined as a
necessity for better opportunities for qualified Connecticut youth
to obtain medical education at a reasonable financial outlay, then
the answer to the question is 'Yes'...
"The Committee does not
undertake precisely to define the need, but finds it difficult to
forsake a proposal that would broaden the usefulness of the
University by making medical education available to the state's
sons and daughters."
The committee did not spend much
time on the question of a dental school, "in the belief that
the establishment of a dental school separate from a medical school
would be ill-advised."
Creighton, who served on the board
until 1950, discussed the report at the next board meeting, but
there was no further action or discussion for several
This was the era of rapid expansion
for the University, with enrollment bulging as veterans flocked to
get a college education and construction of new classrooms and
dormitories topping the priorities of the University. With no
pressing need for the new schools, the matter would wait for a
But although the University did not
proceed, the State did, ordering more studies, based on reports
from the medical community. In July 1953, for example, a Commission
to Study Establishment of Medical, Dental and Veterinary Colleges
on a New England Regional Basis was appointed by Gov. John Lodge,
following a report from the New England Board of Higher Education
calling for a regional approach.
The commission reported in November
1954. It concluded that in the fields of medicine and dentistry,
"additional educational facilities are urgently needed,"
that a regional approach "would seem to be the best way to
accomplish this objective," and that the "most practical
method of putting a New England Regional Compact together would be
for Connecticut to build its own Medical-Dent al School, to be
operated as part of the University of Connecticut, in the City of
After the commission held a hearing
in Hartford, University Provost Albert Waugh wrote to the members
of the legislature's education committee, telling them that the
$6 million price tag for the project was "pretty close to the
He cited the University of Buffalo, which in 1954 paid
$3.5 million for construction and $1 million to buy equipment
medical and dental schools.
Also in his April 15, 1955 letter,
Waugh explained that the money would not all be needed at once.
"The University could not use $6 million on this project
during the coming biennium, even if the funds were
Waugh continued, "experience
shows that after the legislature approves the general project, it
will take roughly two years to acquire a site and to procure the
plans for specifications.
"Consequently, if your committee
wishes to approve the general project at this session, it would be
necessary to make available for the current biennium only such
funds as would be necessary to secure a site and to get plans and
Waugh also kept notes on the
hearing, and summarized them for Jorgensen.
He noted that when
asked by Mansfield's state representative , E.O. Smith, about
the regional concept advanced by NEBHE, he replied: "The
committee and General Assembly would have to decide on the need for
medical and dental facilities, and, if (so), ... how the need could
best be met. The University would gladly cooperate, whether the
state decided to meet the need through the Compact or without
Waugh told Smith, however, that as
an individual, he would prefer to operate without a compact than
"I felt there would be more flexibility and less red
tape," he said. "I felt, also, that there would be lower
Waugh also cautioned that there
would be at least two years for construction, and that graduating
the first classes of doctors and dentists would come four years
after that - followed by a year of residency. Ultimately, he said,
what they were discussing in 1955 was something that would not bear
fruit until 1964 at the earliest.
The General Assembly in June 1955
instructed UConn's trustees and the State Board of Education to
study the matter further; the December 1956 report from the two
boards included a recommendation that the schools be developed.
month later, the General Assembly gave its approval for medical and
dental schools, independent of the NEBHE plan.
In October 1960, the Kellogg
Foundation awarded a $1,037,500 grant to the University to help
develop and construct facilities for a two-year school of basic
And the General Assembly in 1961 authorized an
appropriation of $2 million toward the construction of a two-year
medical-dental school, with a nine-member commission to select a
The University announced in May 1962
a $1 million grant from the NIH to help finance the new medical and
A month later, the site commission announced
selection of a 107-acre tract in Farmington, and the University
then announced formation of a 10-member committee of leading
hospital administrators and medical and dental educators from
Connecticut as a Professional Advisory Committee.
In the first of many semi-annual
progress reports to the legislature, UConn trustees noted in
mid-1963 that a "total of eight studies were commissioned on
this subject during the two decades preceding the first legislative
commitment of funds in 1961.
Shortly after the legislature
committed $7 million more for the project in May 1963, UConn's
new president, Homer D. Babbidge, announced that Lyman Stowe,
associate dean of Stanford University's School of Medicine,
would be the first dean of the new medical school, and that Lewis
Fox, a leading periodonist and dental educator, had been named dean
of the dental school.
Stowe was also to coordinate planning for
what was now being called the University of Connecticut Health
Two months later, on July 8, the
state took title to the site in Farmington.
John Patterson, appointed dean of
medicine after Lyman Stowe's death on June 2, 1965, reported in
1966 that the Health Center library had been established and
staffed in 1965-66 and his
target for the first classes was fall
1968, with 48 medical and 48 dental students.
By now, cost
estimates had risen to the $50 million range.
Construction began in July 1967, but
Patterson reported that delays would require smaller starting
With 59 staff and 10 department heads hired, 30 medical
and 18 dental students began taking classes in the fall of 1968.
clinical program at McCook Hospital, a former municipal hospital
now run by UConn, had begun on July 1, 1967.
Patterson reported in August 1969
that the past year marked "the beginning of the operational
phase of the new University of Connecticut Health
In May 1972, just one month after
construction of the first phase of the project - the academic and
research facilities - was completed, the University graduated its
first class of physicians and dentists.
Phase two, the John Dempsey
Hospital, was completed and dedicated in 1975 - nearly 30 years
after the Trustees had voted to make a careful study.
Mark J. Roy