Giving back for the future
By Styliana Resvanis
For F. Lee Howington, MD ’63, coming to UF for medical school felt like surrounding himself with family.
“Hazel Donegan was the mother and Hugh Hill was the father,” Howington said. “It was kind of a family affair, I guess — home away from home.”
Although it’s been 50 years since Howington and his classmates took their first steps as Gator doctors, they still remember the impression Hazel Donegan and Hugh M. “Smiley” Hill, MD, made.
The class of 1963 hopes to immortalize these two figures and give back to their alma mater through a gift of $150,000 to name the dean of student affairs suite in the new George T. Harrell, MD, Medical Education Building in their honor.
“That education that you get is what gives you the tools to be successful to not only earn a living but to pass that on to other people, so they can go out and do likewise. You have to just not talk about it but put your money where your mouth is,” said Nell Potter, MD ’63, who recalls Hill’s charming laugh and Donegan’s ability to remain helpful without patronizing.
Donegan worked at UF for 22 years — first as secretary to Hill and then as an administrative assistant in the college’s Office of Student Affairs — and often received gifts of appreciation from classes upon graduation, including a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, the dedication of two yearbooks and a scholarship in her name. She oversaw everything from exams and internship matching to matters of the heart.
“If you had a problem, if your sweetheart left you and you were all upset, you went to Ms. Donegan,” Howington said. “If you were home, you’d go to your mother.”
Hill, associate dean for student and alumni affairs and an obstetrics and gynecology doctor who worked at the college for 42 years, placed the ceremonial hood on every doctor graduate (with the exception of the first class in 1960) until his retirement in 2001.
His friendly laugh and remarkable memory of names endeared him to students. He became a good friend to several of them and delivered many of the babies of students and house staff, said Jim Potter, MD ’63.
To date, the class of 1963 has raised more than $130,000 toward the medical education building to support the college’s goal of remembering the past while laying the foundation for the future.
“You either have to go forward or lose ground,” Nell Potter said, “and the college is certainly going forward.”