June 1, 2021

ALMOST EVERYONE WAS HAPPY!

The Big Day was a major public relations success—and for once, the four hospital executives agreed. After facing Forest Drive and the public housing complex across the street for over 50 years, Providence Hosital did an about face.  In a major hospital expansion project, they created a totally new front entrance and circular drive exiting onto a side street.  Hospitals are never done—they are always adding more rooms or changing their function, adding more parking or specialized units. 

Our theme was “It’s Our Turn”—which it literally was.  We planned a Grand Opening and Dedication for the new Main Lobby and entrance.  Since we were a Catholic hospital, Bishop Ernest Unterkoefler of the Diocese of Charleston, would bless the new space.  He was very overweight with a booming voice and a short temper.  The outdoor ceremony was scheduled for late morning and I woke to the sound of thunder and intermittent showers. We had rented hundreds of folding chairs and they were already in place on the circular drive and lawn.  I had to decide whether to move the chairs into the lobby or risk having everyone get soaked.  I was frantically checking the weather updates.

I got a call from Doug, who oversaw the hospital grounds and property insisting that he have my final answer in 30 minutes.  It would take some time for his staff to dry off and relocate the chairs.  Deciding to be cautious, I gave the okay to move everything indoors.  And of course (typical in the South), by the time the Bishop arrived, the rainclouds had moved out and the sun was shining brightly.  Everything else went off perfectly.  We had a big crowd, television and radio media coverage, and the big turnaround was official.  The only hitch was the Bishop’s opening remark, made while looking directly at me.  “Oh, ye of little faith,” he boomed as he pointed to the sunny weather outside.  He got a bit of laughter, but I was just relieved that everyone was dry.

The next morning, Doug and I were paged to come to the front desk in the new hospital lobby.  Standing there to greet us were the four hospital executives—President Sister Mary Jacob, Executive Vice President Peter Reibold (second from left), Vice President Dick Ballentine (left) and Vice President Carl Allen (right). They thanked us both for making sure the big event turned out well and presented us each with a handwritten note of appreciation signed by all four of them and a bonus check.  Deep breath.  Smile. Relax. Good job!

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