100 Years of Compassionate Care: A Change in Leadership
In 1977, after 28 years of service to RMH, Nelson Liskey informed the Board of Trustees that he intended to step down. The Board didn't have far to go to find a replacement because the man they chose was already working for RMH.
A new era of leadership at RMH begin in 1978 when the administrator's baton was passed from J. Nelson Liskey to T. Carter Melton Jr. The RMH Board had hired Melton in 1974 to establish the RMH Foundation. As far as anyone knew, Melton, 33, was the youngest hospital executive in America for a hospital with more than 300 beds.
After receiving his degree in hospital administration from the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute graduate T. Carter Melton had been hired by RMH in a dual capacity in 1974. He was the assistant administrator for Planning and Development and the first president of the RMH Foundation, which he established.
Creating a Foundation to raise money for the hospital year-round was a new concept, made necessary by the economic climate and the changes in healthcare funding. Looking ahead, Board member R.H. "Twig" Strickler and Board Chairman Charles W. Wampler Jr. had recognized the need for this type of revolutionary organization.
They contacted the Dean of Education at MCV in hopes of recruiting one of their top graduates. The Dean told Melton about the position and recommended that he pursue this career option. After contacting Nelson Liskey, Melton came to Harrisonburg and sufficiently impressed Strickler and Wampler, as well as other Board members, so that they offered him the job.
Although he had no prior knowledge of fundraising, Melton immediately went to work, studying fundraising plans at other hospitals and interviewing foundation executives. In six month's time he created a comprehensive, thorough plan that the Board immediately approved. In the first year of implementation the plan was a success, and the Foundation raised more than $100,000.22
On January 1, 1978, Melton officially assumed leadership of RMH from Nelson Liskey and began working toward his goal of making RMH one of the best hospitals in the country. He was 33 years old. "As near as we can tell," he said, "I was the youngest hospital executive in America running a hospital with more than 300 beds."23
Melton provided firm, resourceful and visionary leadership for RMH into the 1980s, which proved to be a decade of medical advancement, increased governmental regulations at all levels and ongoing challenges in meeting the needs of both RMH and the community.
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