Hospital Superintendents

John Curwen  (1851-1881)

Born in 1812 at Walnut Hill, John Curwen was the oldest of four children. He attended the Newburg Academy in Newburg, NJ along with his brothers. He then attended Yale, graduating in 1841 and went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he got his medical degree in 1844. Curwen continued to study medicine with a cousin who had a practice in Philadelphia. He then won a appointment as the assistant physician at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.

In 1846 he received a position at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane in the Mental and Nervous Department. He would remain there for five years and eventually become Dr. Thomas Kirkbride's assistant. Curwen learned much from Dr. Kirkbride, as his assistant Curwen was second in command at the hospital. He would make rounds each morning with Dr. Kirkbride. Curwen had been seeking a position as a superintendent and was about to go into private practice when he was offered the superintendent position at the new state asylum in Harrisburg. Curwen would accept the position and go on to be the first superintendent of the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital until 1881 when he accepted a similar position at the state hospital in Warren, PA. Curwen was the author of many books and papers on mental illnesses. He served for many years as the secretary and eventually as the president of the American Medico-Psychological Association. He served as a building commissioner for the Dixmont, Danville, and Warren state hospitals. He retired in 1900 and returned to Harrisburg to live with his daughter. He unexpectedly died on July 2, 1901, he was said to of been in perfect health when he "just collapsed".

Jerome Z. Gerhard  (1881-1891)

Born on November 6, 1842 in Northampton County, Jerome Zwingli Gerhard was one of five brother and three sisters. In 1859 he and his family moved to Lancaster, PA where he and his brother could receive an education. Gerhard first attended a country school in Durham Township. At the age of sixteen he went to the Franklin and Marshall College, from which he graduated in 1864. He then studied medicine with John Atlee, the leading physician in Lancaster.

In 1865 he enlisted in the Union Army as a private in Company K, 195th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, he also served briefly with the Army of the Shenandoah. When it was discovered that he had medical experience he was quickly assigned as the steward in the divisional hospital. He was discharged in 1866. That fall he was accepted at the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania where he would receive his medical degree in 1868. He entered private practice in Lancaster for two years. In 1870 he was appointed the assistant physician at the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital under Dr. John Curwen. During his time serving with Curwen he gained much experience, both at the hospital and abroad. In 1877 he was sent to Europe to study asylums in England and Germany. In March of 1881 the hospital trustees failed to reappoint John Curwen as superintendent. Curwen moved on to Danville and Gerhard became the second superintendent of the hospital. He would serve the hospital until 1891 when he decided to return to private practice. He died on November 20, 1906 due to an illness.

Henry L. Orth  (1891-1917)

Henry Lawrence Orth was born in Harrisburg in 1842. He attended the Harrisburg Academy and then went on to Yale College in 1859. During the Civil War he was appointed a medical cadet and was commissioned in the regular army in 1863. He developed as a surgeon during the next two years in the army and was discharged in 1865. After the war he spent one year at the University of Pennsylvania to finish his education, he graduated in 1867. He then returned to Harrisburg and became a surgeon for the Northern Central Railway Company. In 1873 he was appointed as the surgeon of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and in August of that year he also became a visiting surgeon at the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, a position that he held for eighteen years.

Orth was elected by the trustees as the third superintendent of the hospital on November 1, 1891. Much of his early time as superintendent was spend rebuilding the hospital, beginning in 1893 with the construction of a new Administration Building. In spite of his heavy involvement in the rebuilding, Orth did take an interest in the clinical aspects of the hospital as well. He upgraded the pathology works being preformed at the hospital. Orth's annual reports tended to be short, only two or three pages. This, in conjunction with his ability to successfully take on the rebuilding of the hospital made him appear to be a strong and confident leader. After twenty-six years he retired on November 30, 1917 due to health complication and age. He died in 1920 in Harrisburg.

Edward M. Green  (1917-1934)

Raised in Washington, Georgia, Edward Green received his first education in private schools in Danville, Kentucky. He received his A.B. and M.A. degrees from Center College. Green then attended the Medical School of Tulane University as well as the University of Pennsylvania where he received his medical degree. After school he went into general practice in Danville and Versailles, Kentucky. He held several positions in state hospitals in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Georgia including the position of Physician in Chief and Clinical Director. Green also did consulting work for several medical hospitals in Pennsylvania, including the Lancaster County Hospital, the York Hospital, and the Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg. This is how Green came of the attention of the Board of Trustees. He took the position as the fourth superintendent in 1917.

As a result of Green's strong clinical background his focus was more on that of a healing mission verses the custodial care that was administered in pervious years. He made greater use of the parole system and by 1919 one third of those patients that he deemed as "curable" had been placed on parole. His time at the hospital also saw the first outreach programs in the way of medical clinics in Carlisle, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, and York. Green retired in 1934. He would continue to do psychiatric consulting work after leaving the hospital. In 1942 he would return to the hospital as a staff psychiatrist to help Howard Petry fill voids left by doctors that were drafted into World War II. He died in his quarters on the hospital grounds on September 30, 1944.

Howard K. Petry  (1934-1954)

Howard Petry was born on February 16, 1895 in Springfield, Missouri. Not too long after his birth his family moved to Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania where Petry would attend local schools. He graduated from Wilkes-Barre High School in 1911. He continued his education at Wesleyan University where he received his B.A. degree in 1915. Petry attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania where he got his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1920. After completing an internship he received a position at Warren State Hospital in upstate Pennsylvania. In 1932 he left Warren to become the clinical director of Torrance State Hospital, two years later he would accept the position of superintendent at Harrisburg.

Petry's time at the hospital would see an expansion in the size of the campus as well as the introduction of new technology, such as the ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy). Petry took great pride in the fact that Harrisburg was the first to investigate and use new techniques and methods of treatment. His staff saw him as an upmost professional. In 1946 Petry became the president of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society. He retired in December of 1954. Upon his retirement he recommended that he be replaced by his long time assistant, Hamblen Eaton. Petry continued to do consulting work and see private patients from his home on Second Street in Harrisburg until his death in April of 1962. The Admissions Building has been named in honor of Dr. Howard Petry.

Hamblen Eaton  (1954-1969)

Born in Warren, Pennsylvania on March 1, 1901, Hamblen Eaton was the eldest of three brothers and one sister. Eaton from an early age was a tinkerer by nature, he found his love for mechanical and electronic equipment when he would visit his father who worked at the Valvoline Oil Plant in Warren. Eaton graduated from Warren High School in 1918 and from Allegheny College in 1922. He got accepted to the Western Reserve University School of Medicine and graduated from there in 1926. He then interned at the Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburg. After his internship he served several years at the Warren State Hospital as a staff physician, then a pathologist, and finally as clinical director. In 1936 Eaton became the clinical director at the Polk State School in Venango County. In 1937 Howard Petry invited Easton to come to Harrisburg State Hospital as the clinical director. He remained in that position until becoming superintendent at the request of the retiring Howard Petry in 1954. Eaton had two sons that grew up on the hospital grounds. In 1957 he became president of the Dauphin County Medical Society and he served several years as Chairman of the Mental hygiene Commission of the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania.

Eaton was a hands on type of person and was likely to pop up anywhere on the hospital campus at any time. He often repaired small pieces of equipment in his office. When construction work on the Admissions Building unearthed debris from the Main Building, Eaton took great interest in inspecting the remains. Eaton focused on having a smooth running facility. During his tenure as superintendent he saw many advances in treatment methods, including new drugs used for the first time. There was also additional expansion of the hospital with the construction of a building that would eventually bear his name, the Eaton Building. Eaton retired in 1969, perhaps due to the stress of dealing with the newly formed Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, which was now running the state hospitals. He died in September of 1983.


Stanley P. Laucks  (1969-1972)

Stanley Philip Laucks graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine in 1946. After graduation he did his residency at the Harrisburg State Hospital from 1947 to 1949. He then took a position at the Friends Hospital in Philadelphia for two years before returning to Harrisburg to take a position as a staff physician. In 1952 he went into private practice and left the hospital. In 1962 he returned again as the Director of Residency Training, the following year he was promoted to the Clinical Director. He held the position of Clinical Director until becoming superintendent in 1969.

Laucks preferred to run the hospital through his subordinates, during his time as superintendent there was no open door policy as there had been with his predecessors, even for members of the senior medical staff. Laucks resigned in 1972 and returned to York County where he grew up.

John Logan  (1974-1979)
Ford Thompson Jr.  (1980-1988)

Superintendents after 1972

After Laucks resigned from the hospital there was a series of short term superintendent as well as several acting superintendents. By the 1970s the role of a state hospital superintendent was nothing like the early days of John Curwen and Henry Orth. Most of the decisions were now being made by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the superintendent position held far less power and control every day. The first in a series of short superintendents was David Lasky, He had been the Director of the Research Department for several years. Lasky held the position of superintendent for less than six months. The next superintendent was Frank Herzel, who was the director of the Geriatric Unit. With in a year he resigned as superintendent and was replaced by James Powell. Powell was a social worker from California. He did not have a medical degree and reportedly he was appointed to the superintendent position with the idea of closing the hospital. He ended up resigning less than a year later. The morale of the medical staff had become so low by 1974 that the staff got together a petition requesting that John Logan apply for the open superintendent position. Logan reluctantly applied and was appointed the new superintendent by the Department of Public Welfare in September. Logan held the position for several years until 1979 when Ford Thompson Jr. replaced him. Thompson was from the Department of Public Welfare, he held the position of acting superintendent for two years before becoming the superintendent for the next seven. When Thompson arrived, the hospital was no longer accredited as a mental health care facility. Thompson set to work with the medical staff to get the hospital back on track and in 1981 the hospital was once again an accredited institution. In 1988 John Flatley was made acting superintendent. From 1990 to 2002 Bruce Darney was superintendent and from 2002 to 2004 S. Reeves Powers became the last superintendent. Until the hospital's closure in 2006 the position was filled by acting superintendents. Even the name of the position began to change as the hospital moved into the twenty-first century. When the hospital closed, the position was referred to as "Manager-In-Charge" and it was held by Gregory M. Smith. Today the same position at other Pennsylvania state hospitals is referred to as the Chief Executive Officer or "CEO".








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