Known as a quiet force who transformed the medical center and ushered in a modern era of transplantation and research, Charles Andrews, M.D., the fifth chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, died Saturday, Nov. 16, at Nebraska Medicine following a recent stroke. He was 94.
Born Jan. 22, 1925 in Stratford, Okla., Dr. Andrews was instrumental in establishing UNMC as a leader in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, now among the leading programs in the world, and set the institution on the path of becoming a major academic medical center.
In 1983, Dr. Andrews became chancellor and during the next eight years, increased the emphasis on research, building the total research grants from $5.8 million to $19.6 million by 1990.
“Charlie was quiet in manners, but he wouldn’t flinch. He was surprisingly strong,” said John Niemann, Ed.D., former senior vice president of development, University of Nebraska Foundation.
“President Theodore Roosevelt was characterized as a man who spoke softly, but carried a big stick. That was Charlie. He never raised his voice. When he made a decision, he found a way to make it happen. He wouldn’t tell you something twice. He was reliable and dependable. He wanted to make UNMC outstanding.”
Dr. Andrews was a quiet, private man with a low-key sense of humor. He quickly won over the faculty, students and professional staff at UNMC with his no-nonsense approach to administration. His formula for success was simple: Obtain the best facilities, recruit top faculty members and researchers and let them do their work.
He realized the medical center was good, but there were no star programs to make UNMC great. He targeted five areas – cancer, transplantation, rural health, geriatrics and biotechnology.
Dr. Andrews teamed up with then University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Del Weber, to “start a revolution” to improve the image of both UNO and UNMC. “They didn’t tolerate being treated like second-class citizens,” Dr. Niemann said.
It was through dogged determination, and a threat to close the College of Pharmacy, that Dr. Andrews got the money to start the liver transplantation program in 1985, which has become part of a world-class solid organ transplant program.
When Dr. Andrews arrived at UNMC, the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases was one of 15 basic laboratory research centers in the U.S. Under his leadership, an addition to the building was planned, the bone marrow transplant program was expanded and the Nebraska Lymphoma Project was founded.
Today, the the Eppley Institute is under the umbrella organization of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and is one of 69 National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the country.
Dr. Andrews also was a driving force in the initiation of several UNMC programs that address the shortage of health professionals in rural Nebraska. Such interdisciplinary workforce pipeline programs as the Rural Health Education Network (RHEN), and the Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP) have grown across the state to include all state colleges, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and an urban component.
The University Geriatric Center opened in 1988 for students in allied health, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing to receive training in geriatric care. About the same time, a boost was given to biotechnology through genetic research, the establishment of a combined bachelor of science degree program with UNO and federal and state funding for equipment and lab facilities.
Prior to joining UNMC in 1983, Dr. Andrews was a faculty member and vice president for health science at the West Virginia University Medical Center, Morgantown, for 21 years. Before that, he held faculty posts at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, the University of Kansas City School of Dentistry and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.
Dr. Andrews remained active following his retirement from UNMC. From 1994-1995, he served as interim executive vice chancellor for KUMC. In addition, he served as chief medical officer for the state of Nebraska from 199_ – 199_.
He served in the United States Army during World War II from 1943 to 1946. He then served as captain of the medical corps for the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1953.
Survivors include his first wife, Evelyn Andrews, W. Lebanon, N.H.; their two daughters, Mary Andrews (husband, V.S. Subrahmanian), Hanover, N.H., and Evelyn Reilly, Grants, N.M.; stepson, Jeffrey Paoletti, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and two grandchildren, Nathan and Annika Subrahmanian, Hanover, N.H.
Dr. Andrews was preceded in death by his second wife of 33 years, Theresa (Terry) Paoletti, who died in 2017 at the age of 86. Terry Andrews was his wife during his years as chancellor of UNMC.
What others are saying
“I visited with him briefly last year and he was cheerful, alert, up-to-date and still following UNMC and everything on campus. Our birthdays were the same – Jan. 22, 20 years apart – and we have always exchanged birthday greetings.
“Charlie was chancellor, but he was ‘Charlie’ to us. He always had the ability to laugh at himself. When he first retired, Bob Bartee and I bought him a BB gun so he could sit on his porch and keep raccoons off Terry’s garden. His performance assessments were always succinct: ‘If you had done something wrong, I would have told you at the time. We’re done.’
“He loved chocolate, but Terry forbade it. Charlie banned it from the Chancellor’s Office ‘because it attracted mice.’ But when there was chocolate, whenever Charlie walked by it would disappear. Patty Mata, your candy dish wouldn’t have stood a chance. So much has happened at UNMC since Charlie Andrews retired, but it’s worth remembering what started with him.”
Don Leuenberger, retired vice chancellor for business and finance
“We in geriatric medicine owe a great debt of gratitude to Chancellor Andrews. He felt strongly that older Nebraskans deserved attention from UNMC. The fact that UNMC has a free-standing building dedicated to aging (the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging) can be traced to his work in the 1980s. We are proud to be part of his legacy.
“Charlie was a courageous leader, willing to make disruptive change in challenging times. As a native of Oklahoma, Charlie wanted to bet me on the Oklahoma-Nebraska football game, with the loser buying. Helen and I bought dinner for him and Terry five straight years. I still remember his part giggle-part chuckle every Monday morning following those games.”
Bob Bartee, vice chancellor for external affairs, UNMC and UNO
“Charlie was the best kind of leader: someone who could recruit good people, give them the support they need, then stay out of their way as long as they were doing what was needed – what they were hired to do.
“He never wanted credit for anyone’s success, but he accepted fully the risks of any endeavor and made himself accountable for failures. Those qualities are increasingly rare. He was a wonderful man, and I admired him tremendously, even when he opined from his position in Kansas that we mutineers of 1996 all be fired. Maybe he was right.”
Byers (Bud) W. Shaw, Jr., professor, surgery (one of the physicians recruited by Dr. Andrews to start the liver transplantation program at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine)
“Dr. Andrews was a champion of social justice. He promoted the importance of women in medicine. He was advocating for universal health care when I met him in the 1980s. He recently commented that all of us in health care need to remain dedicated to the goal of universal health care on behalf of all of our patients.”
Jane Potter, M.D., professor, internal medicine-geriatrics/palliative medicine
“Charlie Andrews was a quiet, unassuming man who was a major force in the transforming of UNMC. He was a visionary leader who was unafraid to make bold decisions. His support made possible the bone marrow and liver transplantation programs at UNMC. To those of us with long institutional memories, you have to appreciate his leadership strength during the controversy over campus overall funding and his recommendation to close the College of Pharmacy. It was a watershed moment that had lasting impact.
“I have always felt that he was one of our greatest chancellors, and his stand during the pharmacy controversy was extraordinary.”
Michael Sorrell, M.D., professor and Distinguished Chair of Internal Medicine
“Dr. Andrews was one of the key individuals involved in transforming UNMC into a ‘real’ academic medical center. He was practical, tough and committed to excellence – and fun to work with. He was very clever – a great leader.”
James Armitage, M.D., Joe Shapiro Professor of Medicine (the physician recruited by Dr. Andrews to begin UNMC’s bone marrow transplant program)
“Charlie was instrumental for the growth and excellence of the medical center. He had a small group of friends, and I felt lucky to be part of that group.”
John Niemann, Ed.D., former senior vice president of development, University of Nebraska Foundation