Three governors, one hospital, three cheers

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and his wife, Happy, tour the new Upstate hospital in 1964. Behind them is are Drs. Carlyle and Cookie Jacobsen.

Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his wife, Happy, tour the new Upstate hospital in 1965. Behind them are Drs. Carlyle and Cookie Jacobsen. Collection of Upstate’s Health Sciences Library.

In our April 3 blog, we described the personal experiences that prepared Upstate President Carlyle “Jake” Jacobsen, PhD to oversee the building of our state-funded hospital at 750 East Adams Street in downtown Syracuse. His Minnesota childhood helped, and so did Jacobsen’s ability to work effectively with three New York State governors: Thomas E. Dewey (served 1943-1954), W. Averell Harriman (served 1955-1958) and Nelson A. Rockefeller (served 1959-1973).

In 1950, Jacobsen was executive dean for medical education at the State University of New York. He met with then-Governor Dewey to discuss the development of SUNY, in particular the development of its medical centers. In 1955, Jacobsen was a guest at the governor’s mansion, then occupied by Averell Harriman, at which time the important decision was made to proceed with construction of the medical center at Syracuse. By 1961, Nelson Rockefeller was in the governor’s office, and Jacobsen invited him to travel to Syracuse to inspect the site for the new state university hospital. Rockefeller returned in 1965 to tour the completed hospital and wrote the following note:

From Nelson Rockefeller: “It affords me the greatest pleasure to be able to congratulate you…on… the dedication of the Upstate Medical Center…the largest single construction enterprise of the State University of New York to be completed so far. You and your associates may well be proud of your leadership and your tenacity in consummating plans for this teaching center…you have rendered services beyond praise for the people of our state.”

And his predecessors sent their congratulations:

From Thomas E. Dewey: “In developing the concept and persuading others to join you in its achievement, you have earned the gratitude of all of us. I congratulate you and the Upstate Medical Center most warmly on this great occasion….I am so happy to know that your great hospital is now open for patients and congratulate you once again on this wonderful achievement and opportunity for service.  With warmest personal regards and every good wish.”

From Averell Harriman: “Your vision, your plans, and your leadership….I am happy to share with you, your faculty colleagues and the citizens of our state, the sense of accomplishment and pride which all of us have in the State Medical Center at Syracuse.”

Signatures of Govs. Dewey, Herriman and Rockefeller. From letters of congratulation written about the opening of Upstate University Hospital.

Signatures of Govs. Dewey, Herriman and Rockefeller. From letters of congratulation written about the opening of Upstate University Hospital.

Special thanks to Patricia Numann MD for providing access to the personal papers of Drs. Carlyle (Jake) and Ellen Cook (Cookie) Jacobsen.

About susankeeter

Occasional contributor Upstate’s Susan Keeter has written about and painted Upstate’s Dr. Sarah Loguen, one of the first African American women physicians. Keeter created the horse sculpture in front of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and illustrated a children’s book on autism, “Waiting for Benjamin.” She’s written for Physician Practice, Upstate Alumni Journal, Cancer Care and Upstate Health magazines. Reach her by email at keeters@upstate.edu or by phone at 315-464-4834.
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