In addition to interests in science and education, Charles F. Kettering was equally interested in medical research. In 1937 Kettering was awarded the Legion of Honor for his work in fever therapy, a pre-penicillin cure for venereal diseases, and other illnesses. He also held a patent for a portable lighting system and an incubator for premature infants.
In 1945 Kettering, along with General Motors chairman Alfred P. Sloan opened the Sloan-Kettering Institute. Kettering personally agreed to oversee the organization of cancer research, and in 1946 his wife, Olive died of the disease. Since 1960 it has been called the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and has become one of the nation’s leading biomedical research institutions. As of 2014, the hospital had 995 attending physicians, 2,373 nurses, had seen 146,855 patients, had 22,144 inpatient stays, and 593,959 outpatient visits.
US New & World Report has ranked Memorial Sloan Kettering as one of the top two hospitals for cancer care in the country for more than 25 years and among the top pediatric hospitals for cancer care. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s radiologists use state-of-the-art imaging technology to detect cancer, and pathologists there have unsurpassed experience in using advanced methods to accurately diagnose cancer. They analyze some 40,000 tumor samples each year to determine a precise diagnosis and the extent of disease – an essential step to deciding the best course of treatment. Radiation oncologists pioneered intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which allows higher, more effective doses of radiation to be delivered to tumors, but minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Medical oncologists are developing new chemotherapy drugs that are safer and more effective than standard therapies.
Kettering’s investment in cancer research has provided patients of all ages with the very best cancer treatment available for generations. It has also given doctors the ability to find new and better treatments for patients around the world.
To learn more about the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, visit: www.mskcc.org.
Charles F. Kettering’s interests in medicine, science, and education at times intersected, but at no time in history had all three of his interests come together to honor the inventor as they have since his death in 1958 when his son and daughter-in-law decided to build a hospital in his memory.
From 1914 until their deaths, Charles and Olive Kettering lived at Ridgeleigh Terrace, in what is now Kettering, Ohio. The house sat high on a hill, overlooking the family’s many acres of land. When Charles F. Kettering died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 82, his son Eugene and daughter-in-law, Virginia, decided to build a hospital on the grounds of the family estate. After the death of his wife Olive, Charles Kettering focused much of his research on medical applications. He was a pioneer in evaluating the use of magnetism in the medical field, he also created an incubator for premature infants. Not long before his death he was interested in establishing an institute for studying heart disease. A hospital to create a living memorial and a legacy to Mr. Kettering was the perfect way to honor Eugene’s father.
In the early 1950s, before moving back to the Dayton area, Eugene and Virginia Kettering lived in Hinsdale, IL, a suburb of Chicago. During this time the polio epidemic affected several children in their neighborhood and the Kettering’s helped create a polio ward at the Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital, a Seventh-day Adventist Church hospital. The Christian atmosphere and the care given to the children was something the Kettering’s valued and cherished; they continued to support the organization the entire time they lived in the area. Returning to the Dayton area with their children after Charles Kettering passed away, Eugene and Virginia wanted to create a hospital that would honor Charles Kettering’s commitment to medical research, education, and science.
The original plan was to build a 100-bed facility on the family estate, however, community leaders indicated that a larger hospital was needed. After the community raised $1.5 million in a very short time – less than an hour, and with secured government supported Hill-Burton funds, Eugene Kettering made up the difference and expanded the project to a 300-bed facility. Because of the positive experience that Eugene and his wife had with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital in Illinois, they decided that they would invite the Seventh-day Adventist Church to join in the development and operation of the new hospital. Eugene Kettering stated:
“Our desire was to create something in Dayton as a memorial to my father…something that would reflect his way of thinking – a working memorial, one that would do some good for the people. We and the Seventh-day Adventists have pledged our faith to each other in our common goal of giving the people of the Dayton area the finest general hospital we are capable of building.”
On July 7, 1961 a groundbreaking ceremony took place for the new hospital. More than 1,000 people were there to witness the historic occasion. Executives from General Motors and the National Cash Register Company (NCR) were present, as well as from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The official dedication of the ultramodern Charles F. Kettering Memorial Hospital took place on Sunday February 16, 1964 with Eugene Kettering passing the keys to George Nelson, the hospital’s first president. The dedication was a tribute to the Kettering family and to the people of the Dayton area who made the new hospital possible.
The hospital was not like any other hospital in the country; Virginia Kettering chose soft colors, had the floors carpeted and the walls wallpapered, chose the artwork, and insisted on an air handling system that would remove odors from the air. Mrs. Kettering believed that having a more comfortable and beautiful environment was important to patient care and their healing process. The hospital also had a modern cafeteria and a gift shop, which was filled with unique items that Mrs. Kettering had collected while traveling around the world. Like Charles Kettering, Eugene and Virginia Kettering cared about the community, therefore, the hospital grounds were well manicured and ambulance drivers were instructed to turn off their sirens when approaching the hospital to not disturb the residents on Southern Boulevard.
Prior to his death, Charles F. Kettering was interested in research and treatment of heart disease; Dr. Richard DeWall joined the hospital in the early 1960s and had already been involved in the development of a heart-lung machine. Dr. DeWall performed first open heart surgery in the Dayton area in 1968. Dr. Benjamin Schuster, namesake of Dayton’s Schuster Center, joined the staff at the hospital in the late 1960s also.
By 1969 the hospital was ready to expand and a $14 million expansion project was announced. The expansion included upgrading the hospital clinics and emergency room facilities, building a parking garage to hold up to 250 cars, adding 100 beds to the hospital as well as 200 employees, and increasing the number of classrooms and labs at the college. As the decades passed, Kettering Medical Center has gone through a number of changes and expansions. In the 1970s, the hospital expanded operations into Miamisburg, Ohio, opening Sycamore Hospital. In the 1980s, a $40 million expansion to add 150 beds and expand outpatient and parking facilities took place, and desktop computers replaced typewriters in many hospital offices. In the 1990s, the hospital and college celebrated 25 years, the first Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scanner is installed at Kettering Medical Center – the first in the area, and a $23 million surgery expansion and physician office building were added to the Kettering campus. In the 2000s Kettering Medical Center added the Boonshoft Center for Medical Sciences, planned a $45 million heart hospital, and in 2014 celebrated its 50th anniversary. You can view the 50th anniversary video here: https://vimeo.com/mainsail/review/112214269/d6b497bdd3as
In the early years of the hospital, to promote camaraderie among the employees and staff, many special events were planned throughout the year. There were summer picnics, holiday events as well as baseball, volleyball, softball, and basketball leagues. Much like Charles F. Kettering’s company Delco Products, it was important for the hospital to give back to their employees and thank them for their dedication. Many of these events still take place today. Each summer the Kettering Health Network holds picnics for employees and their families.
In 1969 Eugene Kettering passed away unexpectedly while in New York City. His wife, Virginia, continued to live in their home, Ridgeleigh Terrace in Kettering, and remained active in the community and the hospital. In the late 1970s, Mrs. Kettering donated the family home to Kettering Medical Center. The home was used as a meeting place and offices. In 1994, Ridgeleigh Terrace suffered severe damage from a fire, Mrs. Kettering and then president Frank Perez had the house rebuilt paying careful attention to keeping the first floor as close to the original home as possible. The second floor, however, was completely remodeled, it would include a conference room and offices, making it “better than before,” as Mrs. Kettering put it. Virginia Kettering passed away in her sleep on February 17, 2003 at the age of 95, from 1969 until her death she provided support and counsel to the vision of Kettering Medical Center.
Today Kettering Memorial Hospital is the flagship hospital of the Kettering Health Network. The network is made up of eight hospitals, Fort Hamilton, Grandview Medical Center, Greene Memorial Hospital, Kettering Behavioral Hospital, Soin Medical Center, Southview Medical Center, and Sycamore Hospital. The network has ten emergency locations, including two freestanding emergency facilities and a host of other services ranging from sleep centers, to oncology, to sports medicine. In 2016 the network will open a brand new, state of the art cancer center at the Kettering campus; Kettering Cancer Center will offer complete care to patients in a caring environment, with dedicated patient-centric services and specialized treatments to fight cancer. To learn more about Kettering Medical Center and the Kettering Health Network, visit: www.ketteringhealth.org.
Misc awards and designations:
Because of Charles F. Kettering’s commitment to education, science, and medical research, he was the recipient of many awards, honors, and honorary degrees. These are listed below:
1928 Doctor of Science, University of Cincinnati
Honorary Fellow, National Academy of Sciences
1929 Doctor of Engineering, The Ohio State University
Sullivant Medal, The Ohio State University
Doctor of Engineering, Univ of Michigan
1930 Doctor of Engineering, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn
1932 Doctor of Science, Brown University
1934 Doctor of Engineering, University of Detroit
Doctor of Science, Toledo University
1935 Doctor of Science, Northwestern University
1936 Doctor of Science, Lafayette College
Washington Award, Four Founder Engineering Societies and Western Society of Engineers
John Scott Memorial Award, Board of City Trustees of Philadelphia
1937 Doctor of Science, New York University
Medal of American Club of Paris, France
Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France
1938 Officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium, Order of La Cowronne, France
Honorary fellow, International College of Dentists
1939 Doctor of Science, Dartmouth College
Doctor of Science, Harvard University
1940 Gold Key, American Congress of Physical Therapy
Honor Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Modern Pioneers Plaque, National Association of Manufacturers
1941 Honorary Fellow, Leland Stanford Junior Univ
1942 Doctor of Science, Otterbein Univ
1943 Doctor of Engineering Research, Univ of Nebraska
Doctor of Science, Columbia Univ
Doctor of Laws, Antioch College
Honorary fellow, Univ of Nebraska
1944 John Fritz Medal, Four Founder Engineering Societies
1945 Doctor of Science, Syracuse Univ
Doctor of Laws, Temple Univ
1946 Doctor of Humanities, Wayne Univ
1947 Doctor of Humane Letters, College of Wooster
Doctor of Science, Washington Univ
Doctor of Science, Princeton Univ
Distinguished Health Service Award, Michigan State Medical Society
1948 Doctor of Science, Univ of Miami
Award of Merit, American Alumni Council