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March 20, 2013

In Memoriam

Trustee Robert Hurlbut remembered as community leader

By Teri D’Agostino

Robert HurlbutThe University mourns the death of Robert Hurlbut, entrepreneur, long-term care innovator, and community leader. Hurlbut died unexpectedly on March 4, leaving an indelible mark on Rochester’s health care, higher education, business, and cultural communities.

“Bob was a force of nature. His warmth, his passion touched all of us. Through his career administering nursing homes, he made an important difference in how many viewed aging. He dedicated his professional life to the idea that to grow old did not mean to lose connections to family, dignity, or life as you always had lived it,” says President Joel Seligman. “To the Rochester community, he was ever generous in volunteering his time, his talents, and resources. His leadership and kindness will be profoundly missed.”

In 1964, Hurlbut became president of ROHM Services Corporation, rising to chair the organization that served nursing homes across western New York. In 1968, he founded Vari- Care, which oversaw 24 long-term care facilities and retirement complexes in several states. Through these organizations, he was instrumental in shifting the nation’s model of late-life care from traditional nursing homes to senior living facilities. His acumen was recognized with his appointment in 1989 to the Board of Commissioners of the New York State Insurance Fund, a body which he later chaired.

A fellow of the American College of Health Care Administrators and longtime supporter of the University, Hurlbut served as a University trustee from 2001 to 2011 and then as a life trustee from 2011 until his death. He was a member of the board’s facilities and health affairs committees. He also served as vice chair of the Eastman Dental Center Foundation Board and as an inaugural member of the School of Nursing National Council.

It was his reputation for innovation and his insistence on dignified, respectful care that earned Hurlbut an invitation to join the Medical Center’s board in 1988. Over 23 years, he helped shape the future of the Medical Center as an active member of its finance, quality of care, nominations and board practices, facilities, advancement, compliance, and executive committees. He chaired the Medical Center board from 2005 through 2006.

“Bob was a man with expansive abilities who cared deeply about our community. There are few aspects of life in Rochester that were not touched and enriched by Bob’s wise counsel,” says Medical Center CEO Bradford Berk. “With his commitment to research, continuous learning, and compassionate care, Bob is a major reason for URMC’s success.”

Hurlbut literally shaped the Medical Center’s footprint by leading the planning and construction of the center’s sevenstory Ambulatory Care Center, parking garage, Levine Lobby and Wolk Pavilion. He also cochaired the first phase of the Medical Center’s Campaign for Discovery, which raised more than $35 million to fund the center’s research strategic plan in the 1990s.

Hurlbut was a key architect of the Medical Center’s geriatrics strategy, recommending new models of care that maximize the health and independence of the elderly.

A devoted friend and steward of the School of Nursing, Hurlbut chaired the successful 2004 Future of Care Campaign, which raised more than $20 million to fund expansion and renovation of the nursing school. The new facilities have helped to spur enrollment in educational programs that provide a steady supply of skilled nurses to all of Rochester’s health care providers.

Last May, the University presented Hurlbut with an honorary doctor of science degree during the School of Nursing commencement.

Robert Hoekelman leaves legacy of enhanced children’s care

By Heather Hare

Robert HoekelmanDuring the 10 years Robert Hoekelman was chair of the Department of Pediatrics, he restructured the department, created an identity for what is now Golisano Children’s Hospital, and founded a collaborative research center to bring together all researchers working on childhood diseases regardless of whether they were faculty members in pediatrics. His focus was always on doing what was best for children, and that focus was how he inspired those who worked for and alongside him.

Hoekelman, 85, died March 7 in Canandaigua.

“Dr. Hoekelman was passionate about the best interests of children,” says Elizabeth (Lissa) McAnarney, chair emerita of the Department of Pediatrics, who served as chair from 1993 to 2006. “When he had a goal perhaps that others had not envisioned, he would energetically pursue it very successfully.”

Hoekelman was recruited to the Department of Pediatrics as the director of pediatric ambulatory care. He became the department’s fifth chair from 1983 to 1993, a formative time in the department’s history and in the development of the Finger Lakes Region’s only children’s hospital. He created new divisions within pediatrics, including emergency medicine, critical care, immunology/allergy/rheumatology, and nephrology, and he opened the hospital’s first Pediatric Critical Care Unit. He also renovated and expanded the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Knowing that pediatric services needed an identity within the Medical Center and the community, Hoekelman established the Strong Children’s Medical Center, which later became Golisano Children’s Hospital. And he was instrumental in the creation of Sandy Strong, the hospital’s mascot, which was originally created by local artist John Kuchera, who died last year.

When the idea of opening a Ronald McDonald House was brought to his attention, Hoekelman immediately saw the need and persuaded the University to lease—for free—the land on Westmoreland Drive where the house stands today. He also helped raise money for the house and persuaded faculty members to join him in the effort. In 1993, the Ronald McDonald House honored him with the Crystal Award for his support.

The University’s pediatric research was stretched across 27 departments and divisions at the beginning of Hoekelman’s tenure, so to foster collaboration and communication, he created the Strong Children’s Research Center in 1989, which encompassed 85 pediatric faculty members and 75 faculty members from 26 other parts of the University.

Harvey Cohen was the associate chair for research and development at the time, and he remembered thinking the center was a brilliant way to bring people together.

“He was very inviting, never territorial and very inclusive,” says Cohen, who went on to become chair of pediatrics at Stanford University from 1993 to 2006. “People saw that and wanted to be part of what his vision was.”

Hoekelman believed his role as a leader extended to supporting recruitment and promotion of women and minorities in his department. Establishing a formal program to increase diversity in the department, Hoekelman created a half-time role for a faculty member to focus on diversity efforts. When Hoekelman was appointed chair in 1983, 25 percent of the faculty were female. By 1993, it jumped to 40 percent. The number of female full professors went from zero to seven. He also championed the work of nurses and nurse practitioners.

“From practicing, he knew how important collaborating with nursing colleagues is,” McAnarney says.

Hoekelman’s wife of 56 years, Ann Sheeler Hoekelman, died in 2006. He is survived by his four daughters, Gretchen Hoekelman of Canandaigua, Kathryn Wissler of Pittsford, Jane Hoekelman of St. Louis, Mo., and Alison Cushing of Crozet, Va., and by his eight grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hoekelman Center at the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Box 777, 601 Elmwood Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14642 or to Sonnenberg Gardens, 151 Charlotte St., Canandaigua, N.Y., 14424.

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