The Cal Turner Family Center will be constructed on the campus of Meharry Medical College, thanks to a $3 million donation to the United Methodist-related institution by a family of "cradle United Methodists."
Cal Turner Jr., a lifelong United Methodist, former Dollar General chairman and CEO, and Nashville philanthropist and civic leader, said there is a natural connection between the people Meharry serves and Dollar General customers.
"The Cal Turner Family Foundation believes in the mission of Meharry Medical College. We are impressed with Meharry's leadership, and, most importantly, we believe in the Meharry students, many of whom will practice medicine or dentistry in small communities where the Dollar General store is the place to shop," Turner said. "Our family and our foundation share your passion for faithfully serving this most deserving customer base. This is the single largest gift the Cal Turner Family Foundation has ever made, and having our name on this new building, at the heart of the Meharry campus, is a cherished honor of our family."
The Cal Turner Family Center will be a resource for the college and the public, said Dr. Wayne Riley, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College.
"The Cal Turner Family Center ushers in a new era of growth at Meharry - a path we started five years ago and now, with more than $25 million in facilities and campus upgrades already complete, this gift puts us firmly on the path to build a modern facility on campus for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community to enjoy."
The planned 80,000-square-foot building will include an auditorium, study and classroom space, a food court, space for conferences, events and educational seminars, and a visitor's center. The center will be available as a community resource for civic organizations, social groups and medical, dental and public health interests, Riley added.
"The Cal Turner Family Foundation's recognition of and investment in Meharry's mission and ministry is a real coup for communities, families and excellence in health care," said the Rev. Cynthia Bond Hopson, executive for the Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
"The sensitivity, insight, care and shared vision that brings them together for service will bless generations," she said. Meharry is one of the 11 historically black colleges and universities supported by the denomination. The college receives funding from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry for scholarships and unrestricted funding that can be used in the best way to help Meharry.
Meharry Medical College is attacking health-care disparities from the classroom, in research labs and at public-policy debates. As the nation's largest private historically black academic health center, United Methodist-supported Meharry is a private institution with a very public mission.
Turner succeeded his father as president of Dollar General in 1977. At the time of his retirement in 2003, Dollar General had more than 6,000 stores in 27 states.
The Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2001 inducted Turner into the Fellows of the Society of John Wesley for distinguished service to local church mission and ministry. In 2002, Turner was award the Stanley S. Kresge Award by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation for his commitment to higher education.
Meharry gave Turner the school's Salt Wagon Award in 2002 for "acts of kindness and commitment" to the medical college and its mission.
Riley calls Meharry a "private institution with a very public mission."
The college has an alliance with Nashville General Hospital, a city-owned facility that provides medical care for all, regardless of ability to pay.
"Most academic medical centers derive a lot of money from their private practice. We provide about $26 million of medical care that we never get a nickel for; we were never designed to be a big juggernaut clinical enterprise," he said.
Giving to Meharry is vital, said Robert S. Poole Sr., vice president for institutional advancement.
"Private support helps to bridge the gap between the cost of operating the college and what it receives in tuition and fees, clinical revenue, government grants and contracts, and appropriations for uncompensated care," he said.
All gifts make a big difference, he said.
Some of the milestone gifts have come from State Farm Insurance Companies, Hospital Corporation of America, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Ingram Foundation and the Elosser Fund.
Just as important are gifts from alumni and friends who wish to remain anonymous, Poole said.
"The sustaining gifts from The United Methodist Church &ellipsis; have had a far-reaching and lasting impact on Meharry."
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].