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A Continuing Legacy of Care

Life is very short, and we must not lose any time, for it is gone too soon.

C.B. Clark, in a letter to his daughter, Theda Clark Peters

“Theda, the best happiness we get in this world is making someone other than ourselves most happy.”

Those were the immortal words Theda Clark Peters’ father, Charles Benjamin “C.B” Clark, wrote to his daughter, imploring her to become a “grand, good woman.” She did just that, leaving a legacy that has gone on to create positive impact for generations that followed.

Theda Clark was born Feb. 13, 1871, the daughter of Carrie Hubbard and C.B. Clark.

C.B. Clark worked hard and set a good example for his family. He served in the Civil War and went on to co-found Kimberly & Clark Co., which would become Kimberly-Clark Corp. He also served as Neenah mayor as well as in the Wisconsin State Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

In words that proved prescient, C.B. Clark told young Theda on her 16th birthday, “Life is very short, and we must not lose any time, for it is gone too soon.”

C.B. Clark surely would have been proud of his daughter. Theda Clark graduated from Wells College in New York in 1892, one of only seven women in her class. Sadly, her father died in 1891 of kidney disease before he could witness his daughter’s milestone.

In 1901, Theda Clark married William C. Peters, manager of the Goshen Times newspaper in Indiana. A love of reading, writing and children guided Theda Clark Peters’ philanthropic efforts. She helped establish a library and opera house in Neenah.

Theda Clark Peters also cared about the health and well-being of the community. When she saw people she cared about dying, in part, because of the lack of a local hospital, it galvanized her.

When she became pregnant in 1903, Theda Clark Peters left private instructions to her brother, C.B. Clark Jr., stating that if she were to die in childbirth, half of her estate should be used to build a hospital and school of nursing to ensure others could access the health care they needed.

“As a pregnant woman, I wanted to ensure that even if I left this earth, I would continue helping others in my community,” she wrote.

Sadly, Theda Clark Peters died of complications from childbirth on Oct. 20, 1903, three days after giving birth to her daughter, also named Theda Clark Peters.

Honoring his sister’s wishes, C.B. Clark Jr. donated $96,000 to build a hospital in Theda Clark Peters’ memory. He donated an additional $50,000 to help fund care for those who couldn’t afford it.

Theda Clark Memorial Hospital opened on the younger Theda Clark Peters’ 6th birthday: Oct. 18, 1909. Three years later, a school of nursing opened, providing an educational opportunity for women that would lead to improved health care for many.

Theda Clark Peters

Legacy Lives On

Theda Clark Peters’ generous donation laid the foundation for a health care system that continues to grow and expand. Today, ThedaCare delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. The organization has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals.

ThedaCare remains dedicated to keeping Theda Clark Peters’ legacy alive. Later this year, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah will complete a modernization project that’s poised to help the organization serve more people, more effectively.

While the entire “Inspired Past; Healthier Future” project would undoubtedly make Theda Clark Peters proud, certain aspects tie closely to her areas of focus. Those include a remodeled Family Birth Center and an updated Women’s Center. The former provides a modern, comfortable and soothing environment for families to welcome babies into the world. The latter will allow women to access care — including mammography, diagnostics and imaging, and bone density screenings — in an environment that’s tailored to their needs.

Theda Clark Peters’ commitment to education inspired ThedaCare to pursue a new Graduate Medical Education (GME) program at its Neenah campus. It will provide formal medical education and training for medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine.

After the program launches, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah will be the first hospital in Wisconsin — outside of Madison and Milwaukee — to offer an accredited GME program. It will allow future caregivers to attain professional development and experience in our communities, with the hope that they will stay and make northeast or central Wisconsin their home.

This past fall, ThedaCare also announced the creation of an Obstetrical Emergency Department (OB-ED) and hospitalist program. The addition of these hospital-based women’s services will help ThedaCare provide comprehensive, safe care for expectant mothers and babies.

“The OB-ED and hospitalist program can help ensure that expectant mothers continue to receive timely, specialized care for themselves and their babies,” says Dr. Eric Eberts, department chair of obstetrics for ThedaCare. “We will have providers with the patient, ready to step in to provide care and help improve outcomes and peace of mind.”

ThedaCare is set to unveil its modernization by this fall. When it opens, it will represent another large step in carrying on Theda Clark Peters’ legacy.

“At ThedaCare, building on our inspired past to create a healthier future, we must become an organization that proactively knows our patients, anticipates health wants and needs, prevents issues from arising, and creates value,” says Dr. Imran Andrabi, President and CEO of ThedaCare. “Through investments to enhance and expand services at our local hospitals, we can continue to prepare and respond to the needs of the communities we serve, keeping our patients and families safe and healthy, now and in the future.”

Learn more about how ThedaCare carries on the legacy of Theda Clark Peters.

Tags: Modernization Neenah Obstetrical Emergency Department Theda Clark Peters ThedaCare

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