Sign Up Twitter

Rising Son

February 23, 1948


He was a third generation Kansas City physician and a KU alumnus whose father was part of the founding generation of the University of Kansas School of Medicine faculty.

An enterprising internist and respected educator himself, he had also performed groundbreaking work with penicillin and, as a US Army medical researcher, contributed to the development of treatments that helped save countless Allied lives during World War II.

Among those recognizing his immense “promise,” and seeing in him the “vision, energy and enthusiasm of youth,” was the Kansas City Star, which noted, “Professional men believe he will go far.”

His name was Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, and he would indeed enjoy a stellar career. His ascent began in earnest on February 23, 1948, when “this man on the rise” accepted the offer to become dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. At 32, Murphy was the youngest man in the nation to be entrusted with such an office.

While he served only three years in this capacity, Murphy’s tenure has nonetheless been hailed as “the most stimulating and productive in the [institution’s] history,” one that “galvanized Kansans in support of, and pride in, their School of Medicine to a level scarcely imaginable as World War II ended.”

This estimation stems largely from his leadership on what became the “Rural Health Program for Kansas” – popularly known as the “Murphy Plan” – a much-copied state measure that, at least temporarily, provided desperately needed physicians to underserved (and, in some cases, entirely unserved) Sunflower State communities. With this initiative came the marked enlargement of the Medical School’s educational capabilities and unprecedented legislative commitments to build first-rate facilities.

Additionally, Murphy oversaw many other new programs and projects that, together, would help transform the KU Medical Center (as the campus was known after 1947) from a somewhat isolated complex in Kansas City, Kansas, into a truly statewide institution.

Not for nothing, then, did Life magazine in 1950 honor him as one of the year’s most outstanding examples of “up-and-coming brains and talent.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, for one, sure seemed to agree. Five years later, the commander-in-chief reportedly told Murphy that he could “name a dozen men in the forty to fifty year [age] group – including yourself – to whom I would gladly entrust the duties of the Presidency.”

Considering his lineage, it’s perhaps not surprising that Franklin Murphy would one day pursue medicine and champion the public healthcare cause. Murphy’s paternal grandfather, Dr. Hugh Charles Murphy, had been a country physician in southeast Missouri before eventually settling in Kansas City. His son – Franklin E. Murphy, the father of Franklin D. – earned an MD from the University of Pennsylvania and became a private practitioner and faculty member of the Kansas City Medical College.

In 1905, this proprietary institution was one of three Kansas City-area medical colleges consolidated into what became KU’s four-year School of Medicine. Franklin E. Murphy, a professor of internal medicine, was thus on hand to serve as a “founding father” of the Medical School. Additionally, he played a key role in helping the School acquire its present-day KU Medical Center site at 39th and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas. He also acted as a mentor to Dr. Harry R. Wahl, who became acting dean of the Medical School in 1924 and permanent dean in 1927.

Franklin David Murphy, born January 29, 1916, in Kansas City, Missouri, would follow in his father’s educational and professional footsteps (though his mother Cordelia, a concert pianist, strongly influenced young Franklin’s avocational and lifelong interests in music and art). By age 20, he had already earned an AB degree in biology from the University of Kansas, and was promptly admitted to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, as had his father before him.

Before he could leave, though, Murphy learned that he’d been awarded a one-year exchange fellowship at the University of Göttingen. In accepting, he was, in a way, treading old ground again, inasmuch as his father, too, had once done postgraduate work in Germany. (Tragically, Murphy’s father never lived to see any of his son’s collegiate achievements, having passed away in 1933.) But whereas the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Germany visited by the elder Murphy had been a shining citadel of medical education and scientific advancement, by the time Franklin arrived in 1936, it was earning a far more ominous reputation as Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Nonetheless, for a “provincial little midwestern boy who had never been anywhere else,” as Murphy described himself in a 1990 interview, it was a “mind-stretching, eye-opening experience.” Particularly so was the chance to study under Dr. Hermann Rein, considered “the leading vascular physiologist in the world.” Murphy gained still more education during jaunts about the Continent to great museums and galleries.

But perhaps the severest and most lasting lesson came when, roughly six months into his stay, the Nazi government arrested his teacher. Though not Jewish, Dr. Rein was “very anti-Nazi,” in Murphy’s words. Eventually, Rein would be released from “protective custody,” survive the Second World War, and resume his career. Yet his imprisonment made an indelible impression on his American protégé.

As an article in the Kansas City Star put it years later, Rein’s arrest “caused Murphy to neglect his study of human physiology in favor of the political ‘physiology’ of Europe.” Having previously taken his American liberties for granted, he returned home believing in them with “a deep and passionate conviction. He had learned the meaning of freedom of expression through having seen it murdered,” the Star continued. “He sensed, if he didn’t see, that America had to take the leadership of the world in education and research, if not in politics. Those ideals were being blacked out in Europe.”

The worst and darkest days, of course, were still to come when Murphy finally entered medical school at Penn in 1937. Although it was the father’s alma mater, the son quickly demonstrated by his abilities that his admission was no legacy gift. Indeed, after four years, Murphy not only earned his MD, but ranked as class valedictorian as well, an achievement he still retained great pride in nearly 50 years later. “I was there with a lot of Ivy League types,” the KU alum recalled to an interviewer,” students “who had had their undergraduate work at Princeton, Harvard and Yale … and it pleased me that a little Kansas boy could beat ‘em [all] to the wire.”

Upon graduation in 1941, Dr. Murphy was granted his first choice of internships, then residencies, at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. And once the nation was thrust into World War II, these positions entailed heightened responsibility for the 25-year-old physician. During this period, many of the more senior staff had either joined the military outright or volunteered for the US Army’s 20th General Hospital, a unit composed primarily of Penn personnel and deployed to India. (Back in Kansas City, a similar arrangement occurred at the KU School of Medicine. From there, 47 doctors and 52 nurses formed the core of the Army’s 77th Evacuation Hospital Unit, which saw action in both the North African and European Theaters.)

From his experiences in prewar Nazi Germany, Murphy knew better than most exactly what was at stake. Yet for reasons unclear, he did not immediately enlist or join his colleagues in the 20th General Hospital Unit. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that he had just recently become a married man, having wed Judith Harris of Kansas City, Missouri, in December 1940. Nonetheless, by 1944, as he later put it, “I was taken into the Army Medical Corps.”

During his residency at Pennsylvania, Murphy had distinguished himself as a top-flight internist and researcher, performing some of the very earliest clinical trials on the new “wonder drug” penicillin. Because of this, he was apparently well known to the federal government’s Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), a civilian-operated think tank established to, among other things, “expedite the study of diseases that the military was seeing for the first time.” (One of those “other things,” incidentally, was supervision of the Manhattan Project.) The OSRD leadership liked what it saw in Murphy and secured permission from the Army to let him join their teams of scientists.

Now Captain Murphy, he was assigned to a special research center formed at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. There, he joined other OSRD personnel in developing treatments for a wide variety of tropical diseases that were ravaging Allied forces in the Pacific Theater. His group’s most significant (and ultimately lifesaving) work involved the creation and testing of synthetic drugs to combat malaria – advances that were badly needed so long as the Japanese controlled Southeast Asian sources of quinine.

In 1945, as the United States was gearing up for an amphibious assault on Japan’s Home Islands, Murphy was reassigned to Atlanta, where preparations were being made to form an evacuation hospital unit, destined for the Philippines. Had the invasion gone off, Murphy’s unit would have been one of those responsible for the thousands (perhaps even hundreds of thousands) of expected casualties. As it happened, though, the Pacific War came to its abrupt atomic end in August 1945, and Murphy remained stateside.

With the cessation of hostilities, Murphy was eventually returned to Kansas, to Fort Leavenworth specifically, where he performed physical exams and administered care to men being mustered out of the Army. This, in fact, worked out rather well, considering he and his wife Judith – now the parents of two children (and later two more) – were planning on making the Kansas City area their home.

The year 1946 saw Murphy’s military discharge after 27 months of service, as well as the reestablishment of his KU ties after a decade-long hiatus. On August 1, at the invitation of Dr. Ralph Major, chairman of the School of Medicine’s internal medicine department, Murphy accepted an instructorship. For the 30-year-old internist it was apparently an ideal arrangement, not only allowing him to teach, but also to enter private practice and conduct his own vascular research in School facilities.

“The University of Kansas Medical School meant a lot to me,” Murphy later recalled, “because my father was one of the founders…. So I had a special feeling, and I as a little boy had often gone with him when he made rounds and I knew all of the old-timers.” By this point, though, the School was a far different place than it had been during Murphy’s childhood years. This was particularly the case at 39th and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Bell Memorial Hospital his father had helped bring about in the early 1920s was now flanked by nearly 10 other buildings.

Yet what hadn’t changed much were many of the School of Medicine’s chronic problems. Its facilities on the original – and relatively inaccessible – Goat Hill campus, located less than a mile north of 39th and Rainbow, were still in operation. The Scientific Department, where the initial semesters of pre-clinical education took place, remained on Mount Oread. Budgets were still relatively meager and the overall plant was less than adequate.

Indeed, the past 15 years or so – characterized first by crippling economic depression, then by tremendous wartime dislocations – had exacerbated these failings almost to the point of despair. And reflecting, perhaps even personifying them was the School’s chief executive, Dean Harry R. Wahl, at the helm now for more than two decades. Similarly dispirited, he was aching to resign.

Amid these conditions of palpable malaise, KU Chancellor Deane W. Malott came to the School of Medicine one day in 1947 and formed a small committee of newer faculty members. Murphy chaired this assemblage of “Young Turks,” as he termed them. Their charge from Malott was to “look at this medical school and tell me what is wrong, and tell me how we can improve it.” Undertaken, incidentally, with Wahl’s full cooperation, their conclusions were not exactly surprising. The institution needed more money, more buildings, greater research and laboratory capabilities, and especially a new, full-time dean.

(Since his assumption of office in 1924, Wahl had not only been the School’s top administrator, but also pathology department chairman, as well as superintendent of Bell Memorial Hospital. Indeed, among the committee’s other recommendations – later followed – was the need for a full-time hospital director, too.)

This came as welcome news to 61-year-old Dr. Harry Wahl, who manifestly agreed that a “younger and more vigorous man was needed” to run the School of Medicine. And accordingly, he announced plans to step down “as soon as the proper individual became available.” In the minds of both Chancellor Malott and Dean Wahl, that “proper individual” was Dr. Franklin Murphy.

“Chancellor Malott, that’s ridiculous,” Murphy recalled exclaiming, following a moment of “stunned silence” when he heard the news. “I’m 32 years old, for God’s sake. I’m a kid and I have no administrative experience.” The chancellor, however, had already solicited the opinions of several senior professors and, as he told his incredulous prospective dean, “They all say that you are the one to do it. You are well-trained, you have a good background and you are articulate.”

From the vantage point of more than 40 years, Murphy recounted the dilemma he then faced. “I’ve spent all my life planning, working to practice medicine,” he thought. “I like people, I like laying on of the hands, I like to deal with people, and I don’t know that I want to sit in an office and move paper around.”

Sensing his hesitation, Malott couched the position as a temporary one, “a minimum of three years,” and offered him carte blanche to search for his own replacement. But he also gently challenged Murphy to, in effect, put his money where his mouth was, and help bring about some of the badly needed changes that his own faculty committee had so recently outlined and advocated. This approach, Murphy later admitted, was “a very effective means of seduction.” And so, on February 23, 1948, skillfully wooed and under these terms, Murphy accepted the deanship, albeit reluctantly. “Well, what the hell,” he recalled thinking, “it’s still medicine.”

Not until July 1, 1948, would Murphy’s tenure actually begin. Yet in the intervening months, he did enunciate the rather ambitious goals he intended to work toward once he “started to administer, whatever that means.” As he told the Kansas City Star, despite the Medical Center’s many shortcomings Kansans could (and rightfully should) be proud of their state-supported institution. “It is now the leading top-grade medical school between St. Louis and Denver, and between Omaha and Oklahoma City,” and it was his aim to make it “increasingly outstanding in its Mid-West position.”

For this, however, much was required. “We shall work for a bigger plant, better faculty and increased activity in research,” Murphy vowed. “We also are interested in the continued expansion of the school’s post-graduate services to practicing doctors in Kansas and elsewhere.”

Echoing the chorus praising not merely his words, the Star called Murphy’s appointment “a well-deserved recognition of [his] talent and promise.” Noting that his “background and loyalties [based upon his father’s 28-year affiliation] are in the medical school,” the paper predicted that, under his leadership, it “has the potential of becoming one of the great medical centers of the nation.”

This was certainly Franklin Murphy’s hope, too. Yet above all, he added, “We want the school to serve this community and area, its health needs, on a bigger and better scale.” Of course, bigger was only possible with some new, significant and sustained legislative appropriations; and better could only result from a responsible and effective management of the funds. Fortunately on both counts, Kansas in 1948 seemed perfectly situated.

In many ways, World War II had been good to the Sunflower State. High farm prices and the rapid growth of manufacturing industries (particularly related to aircraft production) resulted, for the first time in a very long time, in a full public treasury. And as the nation’s youngest medical school dean remembered it, legislators were actually having trouble figuring out what to spend the money on. “I got first in line,” Murphy said, “and discovered I was a pretty good politician.” Indeed, whatever initial doubts he may have had concerning his fitness for the dean’s job, these were quickly dissolved. With state representatives looking for some worthwhile projects, Murphy proved a veritable warehouse of ideas – and more importantly, quite adept at getting them enacted.

Since the Medical School’s creation some 40 years earlier, legislators had heard every argument, listened to every sad story, and, with few exceptions, rendered only lackluster support for every funding request emanating from the dean’s office. And like his predecessors, Murphy’s 1948 petition asked for more money to grow the physical plant; enlarge the Medical Center’s research facilities and postgraduate offerings; and increase not only the number of trained physicians, but also their quality.

The difference was that, this time, he gave appropriators a reason to unlock the state’s coffers that went far beyond the Center’s own self-interest – beyond the direct benefit to its northeastern Kansas and Kansas City-area patients. This time, Murphy would champion the entire public interest and, in a sense, promote the general health and welfare of Kansans statewide.

Before making his pitch, he recalled asking himself, “What obligation does a state medical school have to the state and what are the medical problems in the state of Kansas? Well,” he answered, “the basic medical problem was that there were a large number of communities that were bereft of medical care.” His solution to this urgent crisis, which was mainly plaguing non-urbanized areas, would come to be known as the “Murphy Plan.”

Give me roughly $4 million, he in effect said to Topeka, and I’ll graduate 25 percent more doctors (rising from 80 to 100 annually), as well as send fourth-year medical students into rural districts to learn from and assist local practitioners – an idea that became known as the Rural Preceptor Program. Additionally, Murphy pledged to launch a bold initiative to help underserved communities attract (and, crucially, keep) new physicians.

Murphy also promised to dramatically expand the Medical Center’s postgraduate and continuing education programs. The effect would be to essentially create a nerve center, a state medical headquarters in KCK, where professionals throughout Kansas could come, hone their skills, absorb the latest knowledge, master the latest techniques, and then return home and better serve their patients. It was Murphy’s goal, as he later put it, to ensure that Kansas doctors “would never be medically isolated.”

Described by one observer as a “master academic diplomat,” Murphy almost single-handedly promoted his Plan’s legislative passage. He generated widespread public support by enlisting Kansas Farm Bureau backing, winning endorsements from influential newspapers and making countless speeches “in every corner of the state.” According to KU historian Clifford Griffin, Dean Murphy was “the compleat lobbyist.” Imbued with “awe-inspiring amounts of idealism, enthusiasm, and energy,” he “knew just how to knock on the doors of opportunity.”

In this, perhaps no one was as surprised as he was. Far from just “pushing papers around” and taking time away from his true calling, the work of dean “absolutely fascinated” Murphy. Like medicine, he soon realized that administration “is the whole business of people. Dealing with people, identifying them, motivating them, having some dreams, some ideas, moving in that direction.” And thanks largely to his tireless and effective advocacy, it seemed the state of Kansas and its Medical Center were at long last on a parallel course.

Indeed, on February 18, 1949, less than eight months after Murphy assumed the deanship, Governor Frank Carlson signed the Murphy Plan – officially called the “Rural Health Program for Kansas” – into law. To do its part in executing the legislation’s provisions, KUMC received $3.9 million in state funding, an amount that would eventually reach $4.3 million when additional federal grants were factored in.

As Lawrence H. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston wrote in their 1992 book, The University of Kansas Medical Center: A Pictorial History, considering the legislature’s “past parsimonious funding” for the Medical School, this appropriation seemed positively “astronomical.” It was also incontrovertible evidence that, after more than four decades, the state was finally ready “to support a medical school.” Obvious, too, was that Dean Franklin Murphy was “the [one] man with the necessary leadership capabilities and political savvy” to make it all happen.

Over the next two and a half years, Murphy continued to “administer,” as he’d once dismissively put it, yet now with renewed purpose. He found himself steward of a multi-million-dollar building fund that began to transform the Medical Center campus. During the ensuing decade, nine new structures of varying sizes and uses would be erected, including Wahl Hall West; the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit; the Student Center; Robinson Hall; the Eleanor Taylor building nurses residence; and the Olathe and Delp Pavilions. Other facilities underwent major additions, and more than $400,000 were spent on new medical equipment.

In the meantime, Murphy undertook some renovations of the Medical School faculty as well. In what he dubbed his “geographical full-time plan,” the dean abolished part-time status for those professors in positions of key responsibility and instituted an arrangement whereby physician-educators could rent office space on the Medical Center campus and see private patients on site up to three times a week. Moreover, Murphy also secured permission to end the institution’s longstanding and “ridiculous” division between Lawrence and Kansas City, clearing the path for full Medical School consolidation in KCK. (This final merger did not actually occur until 1962 when sufficient buildings had been constructed.)

In the classroom, Murphy oversaw modernization and expansion of the Medical School’s curriculum; the installation of new educational technologies – such as closed-circuit TV cameras in operating rooms; and throughout, increased the amount of practical, hands-on instruction. What’s more, as Griffin put it, Murphy never let his faculty forget that they were “training men and citizens as well as physicians.” And to incoming students, he constantly stressed the fact that they were “embarking on a forty-year education program, that they must continue their medical education until they retired.”

His original deal with Chancellor Malott, though, had asked for only a three-year commitment – and that’s exactly how long Murphy served as dean. By 1951, as per their second condition, Murphy had already identified his successor in the person of Dr. W. Clarke Wescoe, a KUMC pharmacology professor and alumnus of the Cornell University Medical College. Fully intending to return to teaching, research and private practice, Murphy initially thought his Med School administrative days were numbered. He was only half-right. His venue was about to change, but his new role would take him even further away from the healing arts.

In April 1951, Deane W. Malott announced his intention to resign as KU chancellor and assume the presidency of Cornell. Shortly thereafter, Chairman Lester McCoy of the Kansas Board of Regents placed a call to Franklin Murphy, saying that members had just “selected a new chancellor and [want] to talk to you.” Although he had a “premonition” of what was coming next, Murphy recalled being nonetheless surprised when the Regents offered him the University’s top job.

As when the Med School deanship first dangled before him, Murphy’s gut reaction was, “Well, you’re crazy.” In the end, however, the Regents proved just as convincing as Malott had been. Similarly skilled in the “art of seduction,” as the now 35-year-old physician-administrator later put it, they built upon his admittedly strong “emotional attraction” to KU. “Then there was the kind of ego thing,” Murphy admitted. “The ‘we need you’ type of thing.” Together, these tactics eventually won him over and, on September 1, 1951, he became the ninth chancellor of the University of Kansas. Wescoe, as Murphy had contemplated even before he knew about the chancellor’s job, would succeed him as dean.

Throughout the 1950s, the Murphy-Wescoe partnership was especially good for the KU Medical Center. In his 1959 work The Kansas Doctor, medical historian Thomas N. Bonner described this period as one of “momentous change and daring innovation,” during which the 39th and Rainbow campus saw its annual budgets more than quadruple (to almost $10 million) and its faculty increase from 300 to 530.

As Murphy had promised, the Med School’s Class of 1953 was the first to number over 100 students. And by the time they graduated, according to Bonner, Kansas ranked “first in the nation in postgraduate medical education,” measured in terms of annual attendance, due to full implementation of the Murphy Plan.

For a time, too, the KU Medical Center-State of Kansas partnership, forged with the 1949 passage of the Murphy Plan, proved enormously successful in addressing the Sunflower State’s deficiencies in rural health care. The School of Medicine began graduating significantly more physicians each year, thanks in large part to the vastly expanded facilities and increased budgets that were a consequence of the legislation. Of these new doctors, many went on to set up medical practices in previously underserved Kansas locales and, most importantly, chose ultimately to stay and become permanent members of these communities.

In large part, the Murphy Plan fulfilled its promise for more than a generation. Indeed, as Larsen and Hulston have noted, the Rural Health Program for Kansas initially “worked well enough to become a model” for many other US states. Yet amid “further rural decline,” they concluded, “In the final analysis, [it] proved a stopgap measure” despite its early successes. “The claim made in the 1950s that all citizens of Kansas were within twenty minutes of medical help could no longer be made by the 1980s.”

Yet what has endured, even thrived, is the Rural Preceptor Program. Begun as a Murphy Plan initiative in the fall of 1949, this six-week sojourn in physician-strapped Kansas communities that all fourth-year medical students must experience, continues to this day. Some 5,000 KU Med School alumni have participated in this program, and more than a half-century later, teachers and students alike still consider it to be among the most rewarding of educational experiences.

Far less rewarding were Franklin Murphy’s last three years as KU chancellor. Though he remained in his post on Mount Oread until 1960, the period from 1957 on was marked – and marred – by an increasingly bitter feud with Kansas Governor George Docking. Their conflict was sparked by political differences (Docking was a Democrat while Murphy was a staunch Republican), and exacerbated by widely divergent views on the proper role of a public university and the funding necessary to maintain it.

In March 1960, an exasperated Murphy tendered his resignation from KU. His announcement evoked considerable sadness among virtually all sectors of the University community, and prompted at least one on-campus burning of Governor Docking in effigy. W. Clarke Wescoe, who had taken over from Murphy at the Med School, was tapped again to replace his friend. Later that year, he became the University’s tenth chief executive.

For Dr. Franklin Murphy, though, a bright future still lay ahead. In accepting the KU chancellorship, as he later recalled (somewhat wistfully), he had crossed the Rubicon in terms of ever resuming his career in medicine. And indeed, his next job was also administrative in nature, as chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles. Then, in 1968, after eight years at UCLA, Murphy entered the business world by accepting the Times-Mirror Company’s offer to become its chairman of the board and CEO, a position he held until 1980.

Nationally recognized as a leader in such diverse fields as publishing, science and education, over the years Murphy was a sought-after speaker who served on dozens of advisory boards and was awarded 13 honorary degrees. Based upon his lifetime appreciation for the arts, some of his most rewarding work came as chairman of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Despite repeated requests, a few of which came from the absolute highest level, one field Murphy never chose to enter was politics. As he related in a 1990 interview, no less than two opportunities were offered him while serving as KU chancellor.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower – whom Murphy called a “dear, good friend of mine” – asked him to become Secretary of the Army, then later to head the federal government’s newly created Department of Health, Education and Welfare. After Murphy had moved to Los Angeles, Eisenhower – by then a former president – apparently came calling again. “I was asked personally by Eisenhower,” he said, “to run for Governor of the State of California.”

Then, in 1968, Murphy heard from Richard Nixon, albeit through intermediaries. “Nixon had been convinced,” Murphy maintained, “that he should get, as a Vice President, someone who had respectability in the intellectual community and I was the person he chose.” (In the end, the future 37th president apparently decided that a more pressing concern was shoring up his southern support, hence his choice of Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew. Yet as Murphy wryly noted, this “was a pretty bad choice as it turned out.”)

Thus the VP call never came, but just as well, because Murphy claimed he wouldn’t have accepted the offer. “I’ve served every president since Truman in some part-time capacity,” Murphy explained, on federal commissions and panels and the like. “But I’ve never, ever wanted to run for office.”

Fortunately for the University of Kansas and its Medical Center, Murphy did answer the call to serve as dean. As former colleague and KUMC surgery professor Dr. Stanley R. Friesen observed, during Murphy’s brief tenure, “he provided the spark that initiated an explosion of developing ideas.” Dr. Major hailed his “amazingly successful record.”

And Larsen and Hulston have credited him with enhancing “the Medical Center’s role as a statewide institution,” enlivening it with a “new spirit of progress.” For the first time, “Kansas appeared on the road to having a top-ranked American medical school.”

As but one expression of gratitude, the KU School of Medicine elected to rename its 39th and Rainbow campus’ oldest (and original) edifice in his honor. Since 1983, the former Bell Memorial Hospital has been known as the Murphy Administration Building. Two other facilities on KU’s Lawrence campus also bear Murphy’s name. All three stand as testaments to his remarkable tenures as both chancellor and dean.

Fortunately, too, Murphy lived to see these honors. Indeed, not until June 16, 1994, would he pass away at age 78. Upon his death, observed Kansas Alumni, “the University lost its Renaissance man, an enduring patron of the arts and a loyal friend.”

Added Chancellor Gene Budig, “This institution remained close to his heart throughout his life,” and “he has left a lasting mark.” Without question, as Budig put it, Dr. Franklin Murphy “was one of the giants of KU history.”

John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas

Source Notes

[Source notes: Lawrence H. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston, The University of Kansas Medical Center: A Pictorial History, (University Press of Kansas, 1992), pp. 27-137; Helen B. Sims, The Wahl Years at the University of Kansas Medical Center, 1919- 1948, (University of Kansas Alumni Association, 1983), pp. 4-60; Ralph H. Major, MD, An Account of the University of Kansas School of Medicine (University of Kansas Medical Alumni Association, 1968), passim; Stanley R. Friesen, MD, and Robert P. Hudson, MD, eds., The Kansas School of Medicine: Eyewitness Reflections on its Formative Years (1996), pp. i-ix, 1-9, 12-23; Clifford S. Griffin, The University of Kansas: A History (University Press of Kansas, 1974), pp. 601-610; Thomas N. Bonner, The Kansas Doctor: A Century of Pioneering, (University of Kansas Press, 1959), pp. 268-279; Kansas City Star, February 28, 1948; Kansas City Star, April 18, 1948; Dr. H.R. Wahl to Dr. Franklin D. Murphy (February 23, 1948); Franklin D. Murphy, MD, “We Need More Doctors,” The Saturday Evening Post (May 26, 1951), pp. 19-21, 82, 85-86, 88; Kansas City Star, September 13, 1983, p. 4A; Lawrence Journal-World, May 13, 1985, p. 3; Lynne Susan Powell, “The Murphy Plan: An Historical Perspective,” (April 27, 1993), paper written in a KU history of medicine course and available in the KU Medical Center Archives; New York Times, June 17, 1994 (Murphy obituary); and University Daily Kansan, June 22, 1994, p. 1. Of enormous help is a January 19, 1990, interview with Dr. Franklin Murphy conducted by Deborah L. Hickle, also available in the Medical Center Archives. See also Kansas Alumni (August/September 1994), pp. 10-11.]