Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Henry Bruyn

Audio transcript: On Cowell Hospital and admitting Ed Roberts
Date: July 12, 1994
Interviewer: Susan O'Hara

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

Anyway, but a word or two about Cowell. Cowell Hospital was the first student hospital—in the world—on a college campus going back to the early 1900s. Cowell Hospital was—Ernest V. Cowell was the first foundation that donated the first hospital. That, then, was added to by the Samuel Cowell Foundation, his brother. That building was developed and opened during my first couple of years here in Berkeley. That was 1960-61. The hospital, as it was at its height, was 110 beds. We did everything but brain surgery. We had doctors from the community and from the medical school who took the positions and took the responsibilities, not as much for money as for loyalty to the university and enjoyment of working with young people. We had full-time doctors and part-time doctors to a total of about 120. And we had a nursing staff of around eighty. It was a major operation serving from twenty-eight to 30,000 students. The hospital had an emergency room, of course, twenty-four hour coverage. It was a "community hospital." It was the best way to describe it.

The major purpose of the Student Health Service was, in my tenure, to keep the student in school. We were able to get him back to classes even while he was in the hospital because we were on campus. A student who got, for example, rubella, three day measles, without the Student Health Service, without the hospital—and we had plenty of examples of this—would go home and their family doctor would say, "Well, you can't go back to school because you're contagious." So he would have to drop out of school for that semester, most of which was spent in good health. But by staying on the campus and taking care of him in the hospital and in the outpatient clinic we were able to keep him in school. We had a social service department that got him his books and got him his make-up exams and all of that. Our major effort was to keep him in school.

Ed Roberts' Arrival, 1962
Anyway, it was during that time that I got the first indication of the challenge of the disabled students program. That was a phone call from the dean of students, who was then Arleigh Williams. He called me and said, "Henry, I've got a very disabled young man who's done very well in San Mateo Community College. And he would like very much to come to Berkeley. But," he said, "he's in an electric wheelchair and he has to sleep in a respirator. I don't know how in the world we could take care of him. I thought I'd better talk with you." I said, "Well, you better send him right up here because we could open up space in Cowell Hospital." I didn't go beyond my own judgment in this thing. With my background, I was eager to get into it. I didn't ask any questions of anybody. We had, at that time, empty beds. And we didn't need all those beds. We had a whole floor at Cowell Hospital with no patients on it at all, the third floor. I thought it was disgustingly logical if we could get some cooperation from lots of people. So, I said to Arleigh, "Please send him up."

That's when I first met Zona and Ed Roberts. My first reaction with them was, yes, we're going to do it.

End of transcript

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