Rev. Guy Morrison
New England Deaconess Association

Age 69

Interviewed September 15, 1998

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.

Rev. Guy MorrisonRev. Guy Morrison has been Chief Executive Officer of New England Deaconess Association for the past 27 years and will be celebrating his 70th birthday on October 12.

One has a deep concern for those persons that are facing retirement whether it be from age or health related situations or just that it is time to make a significant change. We at the Deaconess basically have worked with men and women who are older. Some 27 or 28 years ago when I came on the scene, our facilities were occupied a lot by single women because they needed some assistance in their aging process, and the Deaconess did a fair amount of work with that group of mostly women. It has evolved in these last 27 years from a group that took care of such persons now to men and women, still the majority, 75% probably, are women, but it is a combination of women and men and new challenges are here.

In one way I smile when they say people don't die. People go on and on and on. In going on and on obviously it takes an increasing number of staff. Presently we have in the three facilities, 400 residents and a staff of 375 men and women, full and part time, to undergird them. More and more though we are getting specialists who are a part of our staff, for example, a music therapist. We're finding something we've always known but now more distinctly that music makes a difference in an individual's life.

A perfect example of this is early on in my work here I had a gentlemen that had problems in communication and he couldn't speak. He had had a stroke presumably and he went to chapel though and I was having that particular chapel service and I said, "Let's sing the doxology, ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow'." And he sang the whole thing. This was the first noise or communication he had with anyone and he had been with us a year or so. I immediately got down to his wing where he was a resident and said, "For goodness sake, let's get some tapes of hymns because such thing might turn this gentlemen on." And within a matter of an hour we had him singing, speaking, talking, and he did that for another year or so before another stroke changed his life and he passed away. But I'm seeing now in this season an increasing number of specialists to touch lives whether it be in art therapy or reviews of what an individual did in their previous life or other involvements such as young people, pet therapy and the like, and those are now certainly changing the horizon for long term care. I'm also seeing that long term care is unbelievably expensive. In 1971 when I came into this field, a retirement home year was approximately $3,000 and a nursing home year was between $5,000 and $8,000. Now a retirement home year with some back up of health professionals is in the $30,000 to $50,000 and a nursing care unit can run from $50,000 to $80,000. So the financial side of long term care is a real concern. Certainly there is Medicare, which is a reimbursement from the government, and there is Medicaid which takes from a person's own financial abilities if they lose their chance to have no more funds or whatever that might entail, then they will be entitled to Medicaid. Medicaid also for the provider, which New England Deaconess is, means that they're reimbursed 67 cents on the dollar that it costs to care for the person. If the Deaconess wasn't with certain endowment funds, certain gifts in giving, it would not be able to now carry some 50% of its residents who have a need of Medicaid reimbursement.

Something we didn't see 20 some years ago is that people are getting wiser and I put that in quotes and they divest themselves of their funds so they will be eligible for Medicaid and you have mixed emotions about that. One is you can't blame them for not wanting to use up that which they have worked all their life to get and hopefully provide their children or their grandchildren certain pluses in their lives, but it means for the provider though that they are taking a tremendous hit, whether you are a profit or a non-profit. New England Deaconess Association for over 111 years has been a non-profit provider meaning that they have picked up the difference and also continued to keep hopefully the professional staff that it takes to give men and women the fullness of life. So it is a new day, a new world and there is an ever increasing number of persons who today have money and tomorrow have no funds and are on the government, and how much of this can the government take or provide. That's another whole scenario in itself.

This has been an extremely interesting season to see the transition of the financial abilities or lack of abilities of our residents and our patients. Also to see the increasing number of younger people that are seeking out long term care when their health demands it. The great question that has been in my mind for a long time is, is it fair to put a person of 40 or 50 years of age in with a resident of 83, 95 or 100 years of age with their differences in demands? So that's another hard situation to resolve. I've always leaned toward not bringing in younger people believing I wasn't treating them fairly. On the other hand with the staffing we have maybe I am treating them fairly compared to a proprietary world which may or may not have comparable staffs. It is a special new day.

When I arrived on the scene people were in their 70s that were entering New England Deaconess facilities. Today 83 to 85 is the admission age time. So there is a real significant change, and again as I say with a bit of a smile on my face and I don't mean to put people down, but people don't die, they live on and on and on. Then there are the moral questions of how long should you make it possible for a person to live when their quality of life is say minimal or zero minus. Who of us is to answer that because that is another whole issue that I'm sure will be addressed by other people in years to come because that is rather a significant point. In walking the halls and seeing some of the residents whether it is here in Concord or in Northampton or Gloucester or Magnolia, you wonder what are we doing in sustaining a limited life because of health situations or just deteriorations or the various things that can do a number on older men and women.

But the fun thing in the last ten years is the opportunity to provide for the relatively well retired person a quality of life so they can stay in their own home town, close to their own hospital or in proximity to their physicians or their families. We've seen this life care community concept come into place. We now have built Newbury Court here in Concord for 75 units or 100 residents who are relatively well and elect to come into such a community for several reasons. Number one, the Concord facility is located next to Emerson Hospital and we might talk about that in a few minutes. Emerson Hospital has been their hospital of choice with their physicians and their specialists for years and they do not want to separate themselves from that. Newbury Court on our campus here means that they can stay close to certain family members and a number of friends and clubs and organizations and the like. That is a plus versus moving to a retirement community in Danvers or down in Florida or what have you, but again the family ties and the emotional ties that people have with their community. So back about 10 years ago we began the process of trying to analyze this through to bricks and mortar, and we were very fortunate that we built the units here on this campus. Why this campus? Because we have a nursing facility as back up, we have retirement long term care facilities to undergird these men and women that if they need either a brief season in such a facility or they need a long term care, it will all be provided on the same campus and they are close to the world that has been a part of their life for many, many moons. Such long term care is the thing both proprietary and non-profit in this world about us.

The one mistake I made in that area is that I only built a 75-unit facility for several reasons. Economically 75 units was $25 million but it only cares for a limited number of men and women and even with full occupancy which has been almost from day one is just about a break even proposition. You think when you put $25 million into something that it would be at least a black situation that might even produce money for the corporation to help underwrite certain other areas where there is definitely a deficit. But thank goodness we built 75 units when we built this building and dedicated it about four years ago. We thought that it would meet our needs. It was the largest, I believe the largest, building that was built in Concord in recent seasons, but I should have built another 10 or 15 units because that number would have produced a stronger blackness, and it will be interesting to watch it in years to come. I pictured it to be somewhat of a producer of cash for the overall picture of what the Deaconess mission is, the caring for the other 300 plus men and women, but it is much more of a break even situation.

It might be interesting to note here that the form of community that we elected to build was that a person buys their unit, and then they are given back 90% when they leave or I say "join the alumnae group" when they pass away. So the corporation built it with the thought that people who want to leave a significant amount of what they worked through their life for will be passing it on to either their charity or their family or a combination when they pass away. It seemed to make sense to us, but it is close to a break even situation and I will deal with that in my retirement years.

The Newbury Court component is similarly considered non-profit. Even though it was looked at very critically by the Town of Concord, they felt that it was with enough differences than the retirement facilities and nursing facilities that it should carry some real estate tax. It is a hard thing to swallow, a hard thing to understand but a tax of $200,000+ a year that must be paid and of course, it goes back to the residents who have to come through with their portion for their particular unit, and I don't like to see them hit with that extra amount of money that they must give. However, it is interesting to note when that taxation took place a couple of years or so ago that not one resident moved even though my mind was set that I was really hitting some of my people very, very hard who had a limited number of dollars because again the residents are the prime reason we are in business ¾ to care for them. By the way this has gotten to be in the 27 years from when I came a budget of $2 million a year to this year the budget is $21 million. It's increased a wee bit -- a heck of a lot. With financial background, whoever is the CEO here must be able to cope with the unbelievable number of dollars, the tremendous staff that it takes now to undergird the residents well and yes, the taxes and other surprises that come along in running this facility.

Newbury Court got its name through the Chamberlin family. Dr. Chamberlin had eight children and was a practicing physician here in Concord in the late teens into the late twenties. Dr. Chamberlin was the physician for a number of the people of that season that would come into the Deaconess and when he passed away he was extremely generous to New England Deaconess and his family though, three of his children were in our retirement or nursing home and passed away here. Another one Anne Chamberlin Newbury is now in a retirement facility in New Hampshire. Bert and Anne Newbury were very thoughtful to New England Deaconess. Bert was an attorney here in town and he tied us in with a number of families in leaving some type of funds to the Association and it just seemed a natural that the Newbury name should live on as the Chamberlin name lives on in our complex. I called Anne Newbury and said, "Anne, I would like to use your family name for naming this life care community." Anne said, "Oh, Guy, you really shouldn't do that. The Chamberlin name has been carried on." I said, "No, I'd like to do this." Well, she said she would like to check with her children and came back and said they would be honored. She said, "I expect that you think I should give several million dollars towards the building of this." I said, "Anne, this is not the case. We would just like to carry on your name." So we have carried it on in Newbury Court. Newbury Court is an extremely upscale beautiful accommodation. It's eight stories, two stories below grade and six above grade but beautifully accentuated. The designer or the decorator did an unbelievably fantastic job so that it is a class operation. It draws people and gives the best that they could possibly have in these special years of their lives. It's worked out extremely well. Anne Newbury had asked that I not associate her name so I've broken one of my resolutions in discussing this today but on the other hand she was very pleased that we carried on this name. Also others feel that it is named for Newbury Street from Boston and the upscale and the like and it certainly is that too. It is also shared with the public. There are a lot of functions in the community that take place at Newbury Court, not just for the residents but for our community at large. There is something called a Great Room that will seat some 100 people and it is used almost weekly by community organizations. It is one of our missions to be even more of a part of our community and area.

In 1889, the corporation was listed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to care for Deaconesses. They were women, single, nunlike, terribly poorly paid who were dedicated though to the mission of the Methodist Church. They were nurses, they were teachers and they went to the cities of the country and of the world to help people in need. It was that Deaconess movement of the Methodist Church that came to fruition for the caring of the Deaconesses at retirement time here in Concord.

Why Concord? Charles Emerson, a nephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson, felt that he would like to give something specially for the care of people in this community and he in his unbelievable generosity gave grounds for playgrounds, gave the grounds for the museum, gave the grounds for several of our larger non-profits, and gave to the New England Deaconess 100 acres of land here overlooking the Sudbury River and gave money to build at that time a 19-bed hospital and a 30 private roomed retirement unit for those Deaconesses. He got such feelings because his own family was treated very well at the Deaconess Hospital in Boston and he wanted something similar in his community of Concord. I'm not putting down my predecessor but those 100 acres of land are now 34+ acres here. Fortunately, 22 acres went to Emerson Hospital or the town when Emerson Hospital became part of the community and carrying of course, Charles Emerson's or the Emerson name. Unfortunately, part of this same compound or other acreage was peddled from my predecessor when he starting building the nursing home back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He just plain needed cash and that was one way to put it back into farmland or development land. His name was Rev. William Duvall and he was here 11 years prior to my coming. He had been a long time friend of mine. I had served on his board. In fact I was working in California at the time in new church development when Mr. Duvall called me and said, "Guy, you've been chosen to be the Executive Director of New England Deaconess. Can you come back within a week or two weeks." I said, "Mr. Duvall, it's going to take about a month to close down the project in which I was very much involved." I was given a test and I thought the test would mean that I would come back to take test, but the test was administered to me in California and somehow I got this position through qualifying through a examination given to BankBoston executives. So apparently the business side was another part of what they wanted in their leadership at New England Deaconess. Yes, I happen to be a Methodist minister. Yes, I'm an accountant by one of my lives and this doesn't hurt in this particular position, and I rather enjoy people. That's my life.

In Magnolia we have a smaller retirement facility that has a residency of about 30 men and women. In Northampton the purchase of land from a campgrounds was done by my predecessor Mr. Duvall, and we dedicated in April of 1971 a 62-private-room retirement facility which has functioned well in these past years and now is being critically reviewed to start building on that same tract of land and some additional land that we are hoping to acquire, condo-like residences with back up services for retired men and women in the Northampton area. Northampton if you recall is where Smith college is and also has a number of smaller schools and services there. It's the spot where we now believe will do some development, not major, major, but some development because it needs a nursing unit with say 40 beds and it needs independent living units which are more in style now.

It is nonsectarian now, and the new leadership that will be following me will have a much different background approach and will not be a clergy person. So it is a whole new day as we have attempted to serve people of all backgrounds and faiths down through the years, it will be even more so with the leadership side. Will Brucker has come on line. He is an interesting gentleman who comes from a West Point tradition and has served in two healthcare facilities. One in Northampton, the hospital there, Cooley-Dickinson, for 18 years and following that for the Marriott Corporation down in Virginia just outside of Washington. He is a gentleman who lives in New Hampshire and I smile at that because he drives in every day. Whereas we have on the grounds here for both Mr. Duvall and for myself a residence which meant that we as CEO or executive director or president or whatever the infamous titles are would be at least located here for emergencies. A new day, but there is also a sustaining staff always on duty.

Emerson Hospital is of course on this site. It was part of that 100 acres at one time. Emerson Hospital has grown to be a very significant force in healthcare. It has been a tremendous support system for many of the residents with New England Deaconess here on the same grounds. The hospital has all the traditions of a facility that has grown with the times with its rehab unit, with its various specialties such as the cancer unit, all are so significant in the care of men and women in the locality from whence they have come or to draw them in for these unbelievable professionals that have made themselves a part of the Emerson experience. Emerson, of course, goes back to the Charles Emerson family and Emerson also has been such a strength and support unit for New England Deaconess. Nothing could compare with having your significant general hospital on the same campus significantly. Yes, overlooking something called the Sudbury River but working together. We, down through the years, have supported one another. I'm not speaking financially but for residents who both need what the hospital has got or what the Deaconess has for a longer term care, so it's been another extension or it has been a combination of services to make these 12, 14 or 20 communities that are served by Emerson to have even another extension of services.

I would say that today 50% or 200+ of our residents are dealing with something called Alzheimers, a deterioration of thinking or mental abilities, requiring much more stimulation as I alluded to at the beginning, much more understanding. Also we need to pray for a miracle for something called Alzheimers that we in the world can start addressing it in some more promising way to give the people that this may be a part of their changing world something that can be done. There will always be a great deal of interest in how this particular illness or changing of life will be dealt with, and I believe in time with the modern medicine and with modern stimulation and the like, that Alzheimers will be dealt with much more positively than we are able to today. Not just in caring for the person and being sure they are in a safe environment but doing something for stimulation or give medication or the combination or many other possibilities to give the Alzheimers residents a better chance. Again, when you walk up and down the halls and see people in another world, your heart goes out to them and your thoughts surround them and you pray that somehow, some way, they will be given another chance in living.

I have been a part of many Concord organizations. It's been such a significant opportunity for me to be a part of the Chamber of Commerce, a part of the business world, a part of the Concord Business Partnership from the beginning seven years ago as one of the very limited number of non-profits in the Business Partnership, but being certainly in the business world because I believe we are in the third or fourth echelon in employing staff here in Concord. The Business Partnership has meant a lot. Yes, in the Chamber I was very fortunate to be president for a season and it was a fun experience in my life. The business side and working with other professionals in the community has always been a fun challenge in not only getting to know people but in the sharing together and also opening doors to other people who could be for example a part of the board of this non-profit group.

One of the strong highlights of my life has been Rotary. My dad back in the ‘20s and ‘30s was a Rotarian, and in that season the Rotarians were just men and periodically they would invite their wives and they were called Rotaryanns. Now Concord Rotary, in one of their business meetings here at the Deaconess in one of our meeting rooms, made the decision to have women come into Rotary in this area. I can still picture two men who unfortunately walked out that evening because they couldn't picture Rotary with women. Rotary today has men and women all across the world and by the way, Rotary now has grown to 1,200,000+ persons and is a real provider of extra care. For example, polio plus program basically stamped out polio from that infamous 1955, April 12 when Salk's vaccine came out. Rotary got together and backed up throughout the world the Salk vaccine which has pretty well stamped out this thing called polio which in many of our young lives was such a terror to families, to individuals and how we could have survived that season and that life. Anyway Rotary has been a real priority in my life and as I think of something called retirement, I'm also considering Rotary in the retirement community of Chatham where I have a house and will be there full time. Rotary has reached out and touched and caused people to be much more philanthropic than many women and men. It has no religious affiliation.

In fact I have been privileged to know one of the founding persons of Rotary and of the person who developed what's called Rotary's four-way test. Four-way test usually hangs on the wall of every Rotarian. It raises questions of morality and it keeps a person strong in their particular profession and it was developed by a man named Herbert Taylor. Herbert Taylor was the president of Rotary International in 1955. It just so happened that this same Herbert Taylor was the gentleman who interviewed me for my first major work when I graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1955. There was a Herbert Taylor that I met again in that season and he came from a community called Park Ridge, Illinois to Boston to interview my wife and me to see if we were of the quality to be in his church as one of the low men on the staff as it was a large church of 3000 members. Somehow some way with Mr. Taylor and with an acceptable interview there with him at the Parker House in Boston and we were two frightened young people, my wife and me or my girl friend at the time, but Mr. Taylor wanted to meet the two of us and to be sure that we were of the quality to be the youth minister of the Park Ridge Methodist Church.

In that same church where I was the pastor come another couple of months after that interview, I was pastor of Hillary Rodham who later became Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was the same church after close to six years as one of the pastors there went to Wellesley, Massachusetts to build a church as there had been no Methodist Church in Wellesley, and who showed up there again but Hillary Rodham when she was a student at Wellesley College. That's kind of a fun thing. I did ask her to dedicate Newbury Court and went back and forth but her scheduling and timing didn't permit it. She did want to see the confirmation class picture. Fortunately, it was one of the few things I haven't lost in my life. I had the picture of her class back in 1959 in Park Ridge, Illinois and did identify her in the 125 boys and girls and she seemed to be happy and I've seen the picture show up in some of her PR material that she counts this as a significant step in her life. When she was unable to come, I was lucky to get Curt Gowdy who is a long time friend of mine, a sportscaster of great fame and became a very close family friend.

Anyway Rotary was significant and is significant and now as I look to retirement will still be a top priority of mine even in another community, even to get to know new people but also to keep in touch with my Rotary friends here. Rotary in Concord is a club that demands perfect attendance and it's been at times extremely difficult to try to be involved in your work and in your community and not to let it interfere with the infamous Rotary meeting. For 23 years I made up every single meeting that I missed and tried to be a good Rotarian. It is so much a part of me that in my something called retirement will continue to follow in the Rotary work but on the Cape rather than in Concord.

Text mounted 19 Jan. 2008; image added 4 May 2013 -- rcwh.