Making the Move
Under Dr. Sudler’s guidance, the outlook for the School of Medicine changed from bleak to bright.
Dr. Sudler, as the administrative head, oversaw every function of the school. He handled issues ranging from students of color unable to find clinical placements to losing faculty members to service during World War One. By 1919, Dr. Sudler was so overwhelmed colleagues urged him to take a vacation.
Fortunately, two pressing matters Dr. Sudler faced, the school’s location and a lack of funding, were about to be resolved. After Governor Henry Allen was elected in 1919, he called Dr. Sudler to his office. The Governor made it clear the State Legislature would never give the School of Medicine enough funds to be a top-tier institution while half of it remained at such a dismal location. He promised to pressure legislators to increase the budget if the school purchased a suitable location for its medical campus. A group led by Dr. Sudler set to work. They found an attractively flat 16-acre site. All that remained was to raise the funds.
With this success, Dr. Sudler was shocked when Governor Allen announced publicly the School of Medicine should be shut down. Faculty working on the project felt betrayed. The public outcry was enormous. To fight back donors rallied to purchase the property. It had all been part of Governor Allen’s plan. By threatening to close the School of Medicine he generated the support it needed.
The school purchased the land in 1920 for $32,000. In 1921, the State Legislature approved $435,000 for the School of Medicine. To this day the KU Medical Center remains on this flat piece of land. Dr. Sudler was promoted to Dean the same year. Due to his efforts the School’s future looked promising for the first time.
“Sudler had much Pennsylvania Dutch blood in his veins, and these folk have a reputation for sticking to their guns and not running away under fire. Sudler certainly had this characteristic.”
- Dr. Ralph Major
Hiring Dr. Ralph Major
Like his fellow Johns Hopkins alumnus, Dr. Ralph Major took a chance on the KU School of Medicine in 1914. He accepted a position as Head of the Department of Pathology without visiting first. This was a relief to Dr. Sudler, who believed Dr. Major never would have taken the job if he had toured “Goat Hill.” Dr. Major later recalled in An Account of the Kansas School of Medicine how Dr. Sudler introduced him to his new laboratory: “Well, it’s on the floor above, but I haven’t been up there for a month. Every time I go up it depresses me. But come on. It’s yours now, and you should see it.” The two men became close friends as well as colleagues. With some detours along the way, Dr. Major spent over 30 years at KU, eventually becoming Chairman of the Department of History of Medicine.