Late Wayne doctor left $7 million to Wake Forest University
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 2, 2007 2:14 AM
A former Goldsboro physician who lived modestly and "always put others first" will continue to do so through a $7 million gift to Wake Forest University, the alma mater he shared with his father and brother.
Dr. Ralph Wingate Bland, 79, died in September 2006 after a long illness. He had practiced medicine in Wayne County for more than 33 years.
Law and medical school students will now benefit from the gift from Bland's estate, to be divided evenly between the School of Law and School of Medicine. It will support scholarships awarded beginning in fall 2008.
"Dr. Bland's gift is the largest from an alumnus in the medical school's history," said Dr. William B. Applegate, dean of the School of Medicine and interim president of Wake Forest University Health Sciences.
Developing scholarship support is critical to a college and has been an ongoing effort at Wake Forest, said Kevin Cox, director of media relations.
"With colleges and universities nationwide there's a big push for getting scholarships available for colleges and graduate students, and that's certainly a top priority with us."
Bland's contribution will help provide access to the most worthy candidates at the school, Applegate said.
"It allows the School of Medicine to compete with its peers for those top students, and it decreases the stress on students when it comes time to make career decisions. They can follow their passion for a given medical specialty without succumbing to financial pressures due to excessive educational debt," he said.
The gift will also assist the School of Law in making an education accessible to talented students dependent on financial aid, through the David H. Bland and W. Powell Bland Scholarship.
The late physician's father, David, was a 1904 Wake Forest College graduate, and brother Powell graduated from the college in 1940 and attended Wake Forest School of Law. Both are also deceased.
Bland, a 1944 graduate of Goldsboro High School, served a year in the Navy at the end of World War II, before graduating from Wake Forest College in 1948. In 1952, he graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine and was licensed to practice in North Carolina.
He was appointed to the medical staff of Wayne County Memorial Hospital in 1960, then elected as its president in 1969. In 1974, he served as president of eastern North Carolina's Fourth District Medical Society. He has also been chairman of the Wayne Memorial Hospital Department of Surgery and is credited with providing leadership in the expansion of outpatient practices for the medical staff and community. He is said to have been instrumental in the reorganization of the hospital emergency room.
Ernestine Brewer was Bland's operating room nurse, office nurse and professional office manager "from the time he opened his office in April 1960 until he closed the doors in September 1993," continuing to do his books and serving as his caregiver until his death.
"He was a wonderful person, not to mention I think the best surgeon I ever worked with," she said Friday. "He was a very compassionate person, a very caring person ... and did many things for the public that people did not know about."
Very much a family man even though he never married, he became her best friend, she says, noting, "It was an honor to work for him as well as with him."
Bland was a private person, very dignified, and did not want any publicity for what he did, Mrs. Brewer said. So he would have shrugged off any accolades for his donation to the university.
The announcement of his generous donation did not surprise her.
"I knew it. I didn't know how much because it was done percentage-wise but I knew that was where his heart was," she said.
"He of course did not find it easy to go through medical school and college himself. He was concerned about students and definitely believed in education. I knew that the bulk of his estate would go to help others."
Bland wanted the law school to be remembered because of his father and brother, and his nephew, Will Bland, who is also an attorney.
"It was important to him and the medical profession, to help other young men and women go through medical school," she said. "He never forgot where he came from and never forgot the help he had gotten."
Despite what he might have accomplished in his profession, Bland chose to live a very modest lifestyle, Mrs. Brewer said.
"He could have done a lot of things. He traveled; he loved to travel. He could have lived a lavish lifestyle, but then would not have had the money to have funded these things. You could honestly say he always put others first."
Being a wise steward will also pay off for students otherwise unable to pursue the same educational opportunities as Bland had, Cox said.
"It will help for countless years to come, being able to draw on the earnings of that gift," he said.
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