WVU names auditorium for Gov. Okey Patteson

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –   Former Mountaineer football coach Don Nehlen joined supporters of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University today to honor the late Gov. Okey Patteson, who was instrumental in locating the state's medical school in Morgantown.

“It took a Herculean effort to get this medical center started. But the people wanted it. And Gov. Patteson was no stranger to adversity,” said Jim Brick, M.D., interim dean of the WVU School of Medicine, during the ceremony to name the Health Sciences Center’s largest auditorium after Patteson. “As we dedicate this great hall to this great West Virginian, we create a perpetual reminder to future generations of Gov. Patteson's great vision and the mission of this Health Sciences Center – better health in West Virginia.”

Elected governor in 1948, Patteson vowed to see the medical school built and led the charge to finance its construction with the "pop tax."  The one-cent tax on soft drinks continues to provide $15 million a year to support all schools of the Health Sciences Center – medicine, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy.

Patteson, a native of Mingo County who was raised in Mount Hope in Fayette County, died in 1989. His daughter, Anna Patteson Carone, and son-in-law, Patrick Carone, traveled from Indiana, Pa., for the dedication.

“I’d like to thank the Patteson family members for participating in this ceremony,” said Fred Butcher, Ph.D., interim vice president for health sciences. “I want you to know that no one will forget what Gov. Patteson did for our state.”

To demonstrate the value of the medical enterprise to West Virginians, Coach Nehlen, who underwent heart surgery in June, recognized members of his medical team. The team numbered more than 50, including his doctors, nurses who provided pre- and postsurgical care, nutritionists, anesthesiologists, exercise physiologists, lab technicians and others.

With the team standing behind him, Nehlen spoke glowingly of their care for him, joking, “The operation was super, but my golf game’s worse!”

The assembly included medical students such as Mollie Kathryn McCartney from Lewis County, who said, “I grew up in a rural, blue-collar community where I experienced first-hand the wonderful successes this institution has had in the field of rural health. WVU has now given me the opportunity to get an excellent medical education. This gift will enable me, a first-generation college graduate from Walkersville, to improve the health of this great state one person at a time, just like the team that cared for Coach Nehlen.”

The auditorium, which seats approximately 400, was a part of the original construction funded by Patteson’s initiative. It was recently upgraded during construction of the adjacent $17.5 million Health Sciences Learning Center dedicated in August. 
For information on Okey Patteson see http://www.wvculture.org/history/patteson.html.
For information on healthcare at WVU see http://health.wvu.edu/.


For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 09-26-08

Return To News Releases