Eugene A. Stead Jr. A life of chasing what I did not understand
My Story
The End of a Chapter
Postscripts from Stead's World
My Photos
Mostly My Thoughts
Thoughts from housestaff and friends
Thoughts from Others
For the Curious
A new type of Christmas letter

Evelyn and Gene Stead

Evelyn and I have reached the age when we have to decide how to dispose of our earthly possessions. We have a number of suggestions from Emory, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Cincinnati and several prep schools. Gene believes that a review of his experiences in giving resources to institutions of higher education may be helpful to his friends. So this new form of our Christmas letter.

In my sixth year out of medical school 1 was Chief Resident at the Thorndike in charge of patients being studied by the Harvard faculty in residence at the Boston City Hospital. I also was granted the lowest rank awarded by Harvard. I was apprenticed to Soma Weiss, who two years later became the senior medical professor at Harvard and Physician-in-Chief of the Peter Bent Hospital. For my first venture in research I needed a box called a foot plethysmograph. The Harvard department of Physiology had a machine shop and it agreed to construct my box for 200 dollars. I thought I was "home free". Not so. Harvard did not have 200 dollars! This money was not in the Harvard budget. Soma told me that Harvard had good relationships with several small foundations and he thought that The Millbank Foundation would be helpful. He obtained the support of Henry Christian, the senior professor of medicine. In due time the money arrived. I stayed at Harvard four years. It took some time to accept the fact that Harvard was really always short of funds. It accumulated a large amount of money from wealthy donors. The donors required Harvard to create new programs, to build new buildings, to employ new faculty. Having no source of new uncommitted funds and being dependent on charity, Harvard was always forced to carry out the wishes of outsiders.

In the fall of 1941 1 accepted the offer of Emory to become their first paid professor of medicine and in the spring of 1942 1 moved to Atlanta. Emory was a great place to work and I spent four and one half productive years there. The university gave me everything I wanted except for financial freedom. They wanted my department to use the Harvard plan and be primarily supported by wealthy donors. I wanted a steady source of uncommitted income created by a series of not for profit enterprises clustered under the umbrella of the department of medicine. The department would continue to receive its proportionate share of funds from the university but the majority of funding would come from the efforts of the faculty.

At the end of World War 2 those of us who had not spent four years in the armed services were offered a wide choice of university positions. I visited a number of medical schools. They all wanted to be funded by state funds or by charity. I declined a number of offers from well known schools and elected to stay with Emory. In the summer of 1946 I was invited to visit Duke and become an applicant for the chair of medicine which had been vacant for a number of months. To my surprise Duke had already put in place programs that allowed me the financial freedom to fund the department by the efforts of the members of the department. I could be free of the constraints of state schools and have the opportunity to avoid the Harvard trap. Duke gave the department less money than other schools that I had visited but the freedom to create excellence was unparalleled. The chairman at Duke had the opportunity to develop a dependable source of unrestricted funds. He did not need to waste money trying to meet unrealistic wishes of grantors and he did not have to worry about how to fund programs when donors left the department for greener fields. Initially my main source of funds was from departmental taxes placed on income from private patients. Fred Hanes, my predecessor, had left the department one million dollars and I had the income from this fund. From the start the department lived below its means. I reinvested 25% of all the unrestricted funds each year. As the department grew in size it developed a number of specialized groups who counted funds by their own efforts. The department carried the expenses of the new income areas for approximately two years. By that time they were self supporting and able to contribute each year to the unrestricted funds of the chairman.

In my twenty years as chairman of Medicine I never received a large grant from a private foundation. From unrestricted funds created by my colleagues, I could fund new ventures, appoint new professors, build a support system which allowed for young men of promise to become men of achievement, build buildings and do my share of increasing the great reputation that Duke now has in the university world. During my tenure I laid aside funds which allowed me to retire from the chairmanship at age 60. I remained on the payroll until the age of 70. The funds for this came from funds set aside while I was chairman. Duke was the only school in the country who had the flexibility to pay me after retirement from the chairmanship and not decrease the free funds which my successor needed. Early retirement is profitable to the school provided the funds to cover the retirement are in the bank during the tenure of the professor to be retired.

So don't make Duke and Harvard poorer by giving them restricted funds. You think you know the answer. Give unrestricted funds. No way! You were born too late! Years of neglect of maintenance, accumulation of dead wood faculty and a great desire to resist change will cost more than you can give.

Look for a rare university making money by the efforts of small businesses run by the faculty and not burdened by the cost of a decaying campus and professors living in the past. Give it unrestricted funds. Let me know the name of this jewel and I will join you in giving unrestricted funds.

Best wishes for a happy holiday seasons and a wonderful 2000.

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