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Blair family gives $7 million to create College of Health

New college will be named for one of Charlotte’s most prominent physicians

01/29/10 -  

Queens University of Charlotte will establish the Andrew Blair College of Health through a gift from the family of one of Charlotte's most prominent physicians of the 1930s and 1940s.

The new college will include the university's Presbyterian School of Nursing, and proposed programs in public health, nutrition, gerontology, health informatics, and health science or health management.  Collaborative efforts with other academic units at Queens are being considered, and could include health communication, health services and health care leadership.

The new school is made possible by a $7 million gift from Mr. and Mrs. A. Richard Blair of Pawley's Island, S.C., in memory of his father, Dr. Andrew Blair.

Queens President Pamela Davies said the new college will be a fitting tribute to one of the most respected medical leaders in Charlotte's history.

"Andrew Blair was a revered figure whose career was a testament to the importance of service to others," she said.  "As a university that emphasizes the value of service, Queens is tremendously honored that our new College of Health will bear Dr. Blair's name.  His life and legacy will be a wonderful inspiration to those who study and teach here."

Andrew Blair, a native of Pennsylvania, was a graduate of Dickinson College and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, which he attended with the assistance of his four older sisters.  After completing his internship in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1924, he and his wife, Grace Watkins Blair, moved to Charlotte at the invitation of his uncle, Andrew Holmes Blair, a civil engineer who laid out the Myers Park and Dilworth neighborhoods.

As (Dr.) Blair built his practice as an internist, he became one of Charlotte's busiest and most respected physicians, serving also for a number of years as chief of staff at Charlotte's Presbyterian Hospital.

During World War I he served as an ambulance driver in France. He was considered too old for service in World War II.  But, as many of Charlotte's younger physicians joined the Army Medical Corps and left for that war, he became even busier as one of the city's few remaining physicians.  He also served as an active volunteer in the selective service board.

Blair held a variety of leadership positions in state, regional and national medical organizations.  As a physician, he had a strong interest in the profession of nursing, and he served as an instructor at Presbyterian Hospital's School of Nursing.  His sister, Elizabeth Blair, served on the faculty and later as dean of instruction of what was then Queens College.  The two Blairs worked together to help establish a program through which nursing students at the hospital could study at the same time at Queens and at the end of five years receive both R.N. and B.S. degrees.  Many of Charlotte's nurse leaders over the years received their degrees from Queens through this program.

Richard Blair recalls that his father began each day at 5:30 a.m. and taught 6 a.m. classes at the school of nursing.  After teaching, he made house calls on patients, charging $3 per call, after which he saw patients in his office at the Medical Building, next to the Charlotte Public Library, for $1 per visit.

"I remember stopping by his office after a movie at the Carolina Theater and three flights of steps up to his office were filled with people, from the walkway to the building up to the third floor," Richard Blair said.
"When he finished seeing patients in his office at about 7 p.m., he went back to Presbyterian Hospital for rounds and returned home at 10:30 p.m. or even later," he said. "Mother told me she was once discussing how much he worked and the time he spent with patients, and his answer was 'Grace, please don't ever forget I love the practice of medicine.'"

Andrew Blair died in 1948 of a heart attack while visiting one of his patients at Presbyterian Hospital.  He and his sister Elizabeth are both honored with memorial scholarships at Queens.  The Blair House on the Queens campus is also named in her honor.

The nursing programs at Queens and Presbyterian Hospital merged as part of Queens in 2004.

Richard Blair grew up in Charlotte and despite living for many years in New Jersey has retained close ties with several Charlotte civic leaders.  A graduate of Wake Forest University, he is a founder and principal at Freimark Blair and Co., an investment services firm.  He has been a frequent donor to financial aid programs at Queens, including the scholarship funds honoring his father and aunt.  He served as a trustee of Queens from 1999 until 2006.

He said he wants the new College of Health to serve as a lasting tribute to his father's dedication.

"I was only 15 years old when he died, so I did not know him as long as I would have wished," he said.  "But I heard about him for 25 years from his patients, friends, and colleagues.  I hope the new college will help keep alive the memory of his commitment to medicine and to the people of Charlotte."

The addition of the Andrew Blair College of Health and subsequent broadening of the university's academic offerings will be good for Queens and for prospective health students in the region, said James R. Bullock, vice president for university advancement at Queens.

"Queens has a record enrollment of nursing students this year, and we know that our society's need for well trained nurses and other health professionals will only continue to grow in the coming years," Bullock said.  "We are thrilled that our new college will help Queens continue to serve this need, while at the same time honoring a physician whose own commitment to service is legendary."

Queens University of Charlotte is a private, co-ed, Presbyterian-affiliated comprehensive university with a commitment to both liberal arts and professional studies. Located in the heart of historic Charlotte, Queens serves approximately 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students through its College of Arts and Sciences, the McColl School of Business, the Presbyterian School of Nursing, the Wayland H. Cato, Jr. School of Education, the School of Communication and Hayworth College for Adult Studies.

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