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Omaha Magazine

Obviously Omaha: Healthy Altruism

Dec 27, 2020 07:22PM ● By Tamsen Butler
collage of Omaha medical buildings

Certain surnames in Omaha resonate with locals as being of historical importance, and there’s no surprise when these names pop up on medical buildings. But how much do locals know about the people for whom these buildings are named? While more than a few medical buildings are named after donors, some earned their distinction by other means.

Clarkson Tower
4350 Dewey Ave.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1826, the Right Reverend Robert H. Clarkson was the first Episcopal bishop in Nebraska. He’s remembered as a relentless force for good, one of the only religious leaders to not flee Chicago in 1885 when polluted water killed thousands. His dedication to the sick and infirm compelled local women who were running a makeshift hospital to ask him to control the hospital in 1870, thus beginning his Omaha legacy.

Creighton University Medical Center
7500 Mercy Rd.

Brothers John and Edward Creighton, children of Irish immigrants, were astute businessmen and are considered by some to be “the Warren Buffetts of their day” because of their wealth and philanthropy. The hospital currently on the campus of Creighton was founded in 1870 by the Sisters of Mercy as St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. In 2017, a community health center with a 24-hour emergency room, Creighton University Medical Center-University Campus, was also opened at 24th and Cuming streets

Durham Outpatient Center
4400 Emile St.

Charles Durham was heralded as a “philanthropic giant” by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. At the time of his death in 2008, he was the single largest donor to the university for lifetime giving. Durham and his wife created the Charles W. and Margre H. Durham Excellence in Medicine Fund for research of prostate cancer, arthritis, and minimally invasive surgery.

The Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases
985950 Nebraska Medical Center

Eugene C. “Gene” Eppley, the same man for whom the airport is named, was a hotel tycoon. According to Eppley’s Lincoln Star obituary, he was given the nickname “Daredevil Eppley” in 1911 for his adventurous antics as a pilot. His generous donations to the University of Nebraska at Omaha were said to have been pivotal in prompting growth for the university. In present day, the campus is dotted with buildings for which he is the namesake, including the cancer research institute.

Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center
8303 Dodge St.

John Estabrook enlisted in the Navy during World War II and contracted tuberculosis. He was hospitalized for an extended period and often voiced displeasure about the way things were run. Legend has it that upon leaving the hospital, the person in charge flippantly told Estabrook that he should go into hospital administration since he thought he knew how to run one. So, he did. In 1959, at age 30, he assumed the role of administrator at Nebraska Methodist Hospital. His purchase of a medical linear accelerator for the hospital advanced cancer treatment in Omaha significantly. The Methodist Cancer Center building became the Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center in 2006.

Monroe-Myer Institute
444 S. 44th St.

As early as 1919, a group of Omahans started an organization with the goal of helping differently abled people. Since that time, the group has grown and changed. The Hattie B. Munroe Home for Convalescing Crippled Children, an organization started by John Munroe in memory of his wife, opened in 1922. The Meyer Therapy Center was built in 1959 in memory of C. Louis Meyer, with a significant addition to the center in 1973 in memory of his wife, Mary Luman Meyer. Construction for The Monroe-Meyer Institute began in 2019, a century after the first group formed. 

This article was printed in the January/February 2021 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.