Next year in 2011 Avera McKennan celebrates its centennial marking 100 years of service to the community and the area. Nancy Naeve Brown reports on how the hospital's inception started with a generous donation in 1906 from a woman who the hospital is still named after today.
Avera McKennan officially turns 100 next year, but the celebration started earlier this month with several open houses at the Prairie Center. Every employee is getting this book titled "Avera McKennan's First Century of Caring written and researched by Dr. Margaret Preston, Chair of Augustana's History Department. Each employee also got a DVD. The video was produced internally, with partial funding through a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council.
Author Margaret Preston, PhD says, "There are over 50 interviews with recent employees and employees who have been there for a substantial amount of time and what came through those interviews is that the hospital is a vibrant place where they enjoy working."
McKennan Hospital opened its doors in December of 1911. It was billed as a new modern 5 story absolutely fireproof building on the edge of Sioux Falls that would offer 30 private rooms with the newest standards in sanitation.
It was named after Helen Gale McKennan. Shortly before she died in 1906 she left most of her worldly possessions to Sioux Falls. Her land would be set aside to become the first park in the city and her money would go towards establishing another hospital.
Dr. Preston says, "She couldn't imagine this as it is. For her to chose two progressive places to leave her money, the park and a hospital, which was well known at the time that a second hospital was needed, for her I think she was a very fore thinking character and I think it is to her credit that the hospital keeps her name."
In 1906 at the time of Helen McKennan's death, the Presentation Sisters were already operating two hospitals in South Dakota. Helen had stated in her will she hoped a private organization would step forward to run the hospital. The sisters did. Their mission was education, but made the leap into health care and by 1925 Presentation Sisters Incorporated took full responsibility for McKennan hospital.
Sister Mary Thomas is a Sr. Vice President for Mission Services at Avera McKennan. She says, "What's truly remarkable about the foundation of this hospital is the prominent role women played. It's not unusual you would see men in the forefront think of the time Helen McKennan playing a key role. Then the sisters were coming in at a time when who thought women would run a hospital or run anything we have been a continuous presence, sponsorship for over 100 years that too speaks of God's fidelity to us and our generous response back."
A legacy that lives on today. A ministry of healing and caring. A commitment born from faith.
Revitalizing their century-long commitment to the health care ministry, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery announced in September 2000, that henceforth they would co-sponsor Avera and the individual institutions they had previously sponsored separately. Avera means To Be Well".
To see the timeline go to: http://www.avera.org/mckennan/anniversary/index.aspx