Murphy Courtyard changes

July 01, 2014

Here at KU Medical Center, we routinely experience dramatic transformations - when students become health care leaders, when patients get better, when discoveries we make in laboratories end up changing the world. But this summer, many of us are excited about a transformation that's much more pedestrian - and I mean that literally.

Later this month, many of us on the Kansas City campus will gather in the Murphy Courtyard for a ceremonial event to kick off a long overdue renovation that will turn a concrete jumble of parking lots and loading docks, with a bit of green space in the middle, into a quad-like gathering place for students, employees and visitors. How long overdue is this attention to the courtyard? Our Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine was established in 1940, with Logan Clendening, M.D., serving as chair. Dr. Clendening died five years later. On April 20, 1947, more than 600 people attended a courtyard ceremony to dedicate the fountain in his honor, its inscription reading: "Life is Short - and the AKicrt is Long - to the memory of Logan Clendening, 1884-1945, from his friends."

Among Dr. Clendening's many gifts to the medical center was a bequest of all of his books dealing with the history of medicine and science; these are now housed in the History of Medicine Library. Meanwhile, time marched on, and our medical center's dramatic growth over the last several decades meant that, as buildings rose around the courtyard, we needed roads and access for delivery trucks. And when the fountain stopped working, repair costs were simply too steep.

Over the last few years, though, as we've worked on a strategic plan and a campus master plan, we have reminded ourselves that our campus grounds are an outward expression of the healthy culture and the life-promoting work that exists within our classes, clinics and offices. It's impossible not to notice the huge difference on our Kansas City campus this summer, thanks to the folks in our Landscape Services department, who have planted flowers and shrubs in high visibility areas. They've beautified our world simply and economically. Now, for the courtyard, we envision an equally beautiful place.

It will be a big project. And it will get uglier before it improves. Soon, we'll begin removing concrete and overhangs. At the same time, Steffani Webb and her team have formed a courtyard committee to ensure that progress is as smooth and efficient as possible. I'm pleased to report that our student government leaders are already involved and enthusiastic: Students have even supported using Student Union Corporation money to begin the planning.  We are now beginning to seek input from alumni, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders, and we are starting a fund and hoping for contributions from alumni and other campus constituents.

The goal is to finish the renovation by the end of next summer. And even though it's unlikely that the new courtyard will have a working fountain, we are committed to making sure Dr. Clendening's fountain is incorporated into the new landscape design. Contrary to how it might appear, we haven't forgotten him.

Last modified: Jul 17, 2014