• By Laurel J. Kelly

#FlashbackFriday 1986: Dedicating the Florida campus

October 28, 2016

a 1986 photograph of the Mayo lobby photography exhibit when the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, was dedicated

This article first appeared in November 1986, in the publication Mayovox.

Making history

The opening of Mayo’s first group practice outside Rochester is celebrated in a memorable affair.

With temperatures well into the 90’s, more than 900 invited guests assembled under tents positioned near Mayo Clinic Jacksonville’s main entrance last month for an historic occasion — the dedication of Mayo’s first group practice facility outside Rochester.

In his opening comments, keynote speaker the Reverend Billy Graham cited the humble beginnings of Dr. William Worrall Mayo and the legacy that made it all possible.

“I could not help but think as I stand here, of the contrast between these magnificent buildings with their state-of-the-art equipment and the situation William Worrall Mayo must have faced when he started his medical practice in 1863.

a 1986 photograph of Reverend Billy Graham, the keynote speaker when the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, was dedicated

“Minnesota had only been a state for five years and was still very much a part of the raw frontier, Indians and all. He was probably grateful when he had a kerosene lamp instead of a candle to operate by and virtually all of his medical equipment could fit in his black bag.

“Today, the Mayo Clinic is probably the best known medical center in the world. I am sure that even a brilliant visionary like Dr. Mayo could never have imagined the explosion of knowledge and treatment that would take place between his day and ours and no one would have been more pleased and excited than he and his sons, Charles and William, at the dedication of these facilities today.”

In fitting tribute to Mayo benefactor J.E. Davis, the clinic building was named and dedicated the “Davis Building” with Samuel C. Johnson gratefully acknowledging Davis’ support:

“Many of us here today have shared a dream…a dream of establishing a new Mayo Clinic in the Southeast. No one has been more committed to that dream than Mr. J.E. Davis. His commitment to the task never wavered. He persevered in his dream of bringing Mayo Clinic to Jacksonville…”

Officiating the ceremony was Dr. D. Thane Cody, chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, who welcomed guests and introduced the afternoon’s speakers who, besides the Reverend Billy Graham consisted of: Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, president and chief executive officer, Mayo Foundation; Jacksonville Mayor Jake M. Godbold; Samuel C. Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of S. C. Johnson and Sons, Inc., and chairman of the Mayo Foundation Board of Trustees; and J.E. Davis of Jacksonville, Mayo benefactor who donated the 140 acre parcel of land for construction of the clinic. The dedication ceremony marked the first time Mayo’s new satellite telecommunications system was used as it broadcast the program live to Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

a 1986 photograph of the ribbon-cutting ceremony when the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida, was dedicated

Following the official ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville opened its doors to guests who gathered inside for the reception and dined on fresh shrimp, crisp vegetables, assorted pastries and tropical punch. According to Nancy Skaran, communications specialist who coordinated the dedication ceremony: “The mood of the afternoon was very festive and despite the hectic photo finish to meet today’s deadlines, the entire program took place exactly as planned.”

A decorative display of brilliant white calla lilies and tulips were specially created for the ceremony to complement the permanent greenery throughout the clinic. The buffet table centerpiece, a majestic, dolphin-shaped ice sculpture, was a “wonderful conversation piece and definitely added to the spirit of the celebration,” says Skaran.

A tour of the $35 million, five-story structure was also available for guests in attendance and hosted by several Mayo employees. “Those who participated in the tour were amazed at the beauty of the building,” said Jane Hixson, marketing manager for the Mayo Group Practices and one of the tour guides for the afternoon.

Of great interest to those touring the clinic was the lobby exhibit (pictured above) which traced Mayo’s history through a collection of photography. According to Hixson, the exhibit was created with a dual purpose. “Not only will it give patients something to do while waiting, but it’s an important link to Rochester and will carry the tradition of Mayo Clinic to Jacksonville.”

According to Pat Whiting, desk supervisor at the clinic, though the pace continues to be demanding, Mayo employees were honored to have been a part of the dedication. “More than one employee came up to me to say ‘thank you for letting me be a part of the day.’ For all of us, this was a once in a lifetime experience.”

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