Dr. Louis Sullivan shared a photograph of himself with former President George H.W. Bush and the late Barbara Bush. AJC photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Jennifer Brett/The Buzz
Photo: Jennifer Brett/The Buzz

President George H.W. Bush was key to Morehouse School of Medicine’s success

Founding dean Dr. Louis Sullivan visited days before Bush died at 94

A July 1982 building dedication ceremony at Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine drew a politically prominent crowd.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was Atlanta’s mayor at the time, shared the stage with then U.S. Rep. Wyche Fowler (later a U.S. senator), the late U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell (a state senator at the time) and Michael Lomax, then serving as chairman of the Fulton County commission.

Then-Vice President George Bush headlined the festivities, lauding the school and announcing a $2.6 million federal grant.

“It is glaringly apparent that additional schools of medicine such as this great institution are needed throughout the United States,” he said during his remarks.

His visit was hardly a one-time thing. The friendship Bush struck up with Dr. Louis Sullivan, Morehouse School of Medicine’s founding dean and president, was key to the school’s success.

Bush died Friday at 94, eight months after his wife, Barbara Bush, died at 92.

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“We really hit it off,” Sullivan recalled. “I formed a great relationship with both Bushes.”

Not long after George Bush’s appearance at the building dedication, he invited Sullivan to accompany his delegation on a goodwill trip through Africa. The Bushes provided sustained fundraising support for the Morehouse School of Medicine for years.

In November 1983, a $15 million expansion drive aimed at expanding Morehouse School of Medicine from a two to four-year institution kicked off with a Capitol Hill press conference following a luncheon at the Bushes’ Washington home, The Atlanta Constitution (then a separate entity from The Atlanta Journal) reported at the time.

Former U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler (a U.S. representative at the time), left, with then Vice President George Bush at a July 1982 building dedication ceremony at Morehouse School of Medicine. Atlanta Constitution archive photo: Cheryl Bray

“He was very supportive of education in general and certainly higher education,” said Sullivan, who served as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services during Bush’s presidency. “Being part of the Bush administration was an uplifting, inspiring as well as a challenging event. It opened my eyes to the honor of public service.”

Barbara Bush served as a trustee for six years (missing only one meeting during her tenure) and wrote the foreword to "The Morehouse Mystique," the medical school’s history. Today, the endowed George H.W. and Barbara P. Bush Professor of Neuroscience position reflects their dedication.

“He meant so much to me and to the Morehouse School of Medicine,” Sullivan said. “He was one of our great supporters.”

Sullivan spent time with Bush just days ago.

“When I got there his blood pressure was low. He was not really responsive. I visited nevertheless with him and members of the family,” said Sullivan, who plans to attend the memorial service. “He was a very humble person and a very gentle person. He was a great friend. I’m proud and pleased to have been associated with him.”

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