Upson Regional Medical Center and the Thomaston community gathered last week to give a big thank you to Norman Morris, who is retiring after steering the hospital for nearly four decades.
Last Wednesday, fellow board members, hospital employees, and community members honored Mr. Morris for his 37.5 years of volunteer service and leadership which has helped preserve, improve and ensure local access to health care.
Inspired by the hospital’s founders, Norman Morris’ service to Upson Regional Medical Center is evidenced by his visionary leadership and loyal commitment to the community it serves said CEO David Castleberry.
“Upson has a long history of sound decision making that puts it in the sound financial position we have today. It is clear Mr. Morris has played a pivotal role in critical decisions that are cornerstones of Upson Regional’s success today.”
In the 60s, Morris was active in recruiting and retaining a strong base of specialists to serve the hospital and community. Having specialists in surgery and urology in such a small, rural town was not common in the 1960s and is not common today. The work Mr. Morris helped lead in physician recruitment nearly 50 years ago is a foundation for Upson’s scope of services today.
Morris saw the board and community through to a broader vision and service area. The hospital was granted in the early 1990s regional status, which opened the door to an expansion of services in neighboring counties. The expansion includes clinic and outpatient services in Pike, Meriwether, and Lamar counties.
Most recently, Morris has seen the hospital through a three-year, $20 million renovation to better meet the needs of its outpatients and focus on wellness as a key component of community success.
Mr. Morris served the hospital board as Finance Chair for more than a decade and will retire this month as Chairman, a position he has held since 2007.
Castleberry said, “We all benefit from Mr. Morris’ historical and visionary perspectives. We benefit from his wisdom.”
Mr. Morris was born and raised in Thomaston, Ga. For 20 years the Auburn graduate worked his way up with diligence, innovation and passion to serve as General Manager for Martha Mills.
His influential role contributed to his appointment to two statewide textile boards, and the County Commission’s decision to recruit him to the hospital board, where Morris served with two of the hospital’s founders, Mr. Julian Hightower and Mr. Hubert Hancock, and subsequently became infected with a passion for keeping and growing the then 25 year-old hospital.
In 2009, the Georgia Hospital Association recognized Mr. Morris’s contributions with the Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his leadership in the community and his own profession and his gifts of time and talent to bettering the hospital and other health care services in the community.
From the onset of his career, Morris embraced change and education as critical ingredients needed to advance his industry and his community. Hospitals are extremely complex entities from regulatory, finance, quality and safety perspectives, and the rules are ever changing. Sound leadership requires hours upon hours of ongoing education.
For 17 years, Barney Hancock has served as a hospital board member with Mr. Morris. “For almost 40 years, Norman has given of his time and embraced the tremendous responsibility of making decisions that affect the lives of so many,” he said. “At a time when many small hospitals are struggling, Upson remains strong, and we all can thank Norman for that.”
A hand painted oil portrait of Mr. Morris now hangs in the hospital board room, which now is officially named the Norman S. Morris Board Room.