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THE CULTIVATION OF EXCELLENCE* CHARLES B. HUGGINSi The pearl of the day is taken from the gospel according to St. Luke, the blessed physician: "For unto whomsoever much is given, ofhim shall be much required: And to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48). This is a felicitous occasion—the festival of Thanksgiving is upon us. The University of Chicago gives special thanks: For the lives of so many fine men and women who have served her without stint; for a half century of a house called Billings on die beautiful campus ofdie university, where tiiose who are sick in body and mind are cared for and where the Quiet Art of research is courted ardently; and for the christening of two new hospital facilities: die Margaret Hoover Fay and Will E. Fay, Jr. Brain Research Institute, and the Clarence C. Reed Surgery Center. Billings Hospital was the gift of the family Billings in honor of a patriarch, A. M. Billings (1814-1897). In 50 years Albert Merritt Billings Hospital (AMBH) has ministered to a million sick folk. Thousands of medical students have been exposed to excellence in the medical sciences ; hundreds of embryo biochemists, hopeful pathologists, tyro physiologists and odier young scientists have been taught and received the doctorate of philosophy in the house of Billings. Through the benefaction of his family, A. M. Billings, financier, born 1 year before Waterloo, will be remembered through die ages as Albert Merritt Billings , Patron of Scholarship, Friend of Man. Donors to die university perform a service to humanity which is impossible to overemphasize. The spirit of the University of Chicago is a deep and far-reaching commitment to excellence in inquiry. It is a stimulus; it furnishes esprit de corps. Character is die sire ofexcellence. The high accomplishments ofmankind are achieved exclusively by men and women ofnoble character who do nodiing mean, small, or degrading. They give more than they take. *The 365th Convocation Address, Rockefeller Chapel, November 14, 1977. tWilliam B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Ben May Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Chicago.© 1979 by The University of Chicago. 0031-5982/79/2222-0001$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Winter 1979 · Part 2 \ S33 Everything human, which is good and fine, derives from character—a moral force. In die year ofour Lord 1892, on Saturday, October 1, the work ofdie University of Chicago began. It had been determined that die faculty should be die world's most eminent scholars, provided diat diey were young. It was decided to forgo opening exercises, but in dieir initial meeting students and teachers alike had die sense of rendezvous with destiny. The University of Chicago is the lengthened shadow of William Rainey Harper (1856-1906), the first president, whose age was 36 when the university opened. While the university, age 1 year, was still in swaddling clotiies, President Harper wrote: "From the inception of the enterprise those connected with it were filled with an ambition to organize a work which, in die course of time, should not be surpassed anywhere . It is proposed in this institution to make the work ofinvestigation primary, the work ofgiving instruction secondary." This is die essence of the University of Chicago which remains. Harper sowed die seeds of excellence for colleagues and successors to cultivate. And it came to pass that the clinical professors in every medical college in America were for the most part private practitioners of medicine— true, the most famous medical doctors in the cities but not specially competent in medical education. These physicians were in great demand in community service, and diey were incredibly busy and highly successful . There was little time or inclination for original study; only the most superficial sorts of investigation were carried out. It was said diat those who cure do not know and that those who know cannot cure (F. Sauerbruch ). President Harper quickly saw the spots of decay in the tapestry of medicine. Long-range and elaborate plans were made to build a new school of medicine on the grounds of the University of Chicago in contiguity with the science departments, for nothing cements like brick and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. S33-S36
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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