Revered valley fever researcher Dr. Hans Einstein died one month ago but his memory thrived Tuesday as Bakersfield Memorial Hospital opened a new main entrance named after him.
Hospital staff and administrators gathered in the late morning heat for the opening of the Hans E. Einstein M.D. Pavilion complete with a Carl's Jr. truck handing out lunches and a ribbon cutting by Mayor Harvey Hall.
The new entrance unveiling coincides with a face lift to the front of the administrative building, redo of the front parking lots, new gift shop and renovated lobby.
The new entrance and other additions will cost a little more than $2 million, according to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital CEO and President Jon Van Boening. The pavilion was financed by $1.2 million in physicians' donations and the rest from the hospital's capital budget, according to hospital administrators.
Dr. Bruce Swinyer, who co-chaired the Physician Leadership Campaign, said he wished the opening could have taken place several months ago for Einstein to see.
"He fought and fought to stay with us for many, many months and finally his body gave up," Swinyer said. "No greater honor could be bestowed on him than the completion of this beautiful, wonderful pavillion."
Standing in the new circular driveway, Van Boening said he didn't think this day would arrive, relating a story of standing under the old front patio with his then-boss, former hospital president Larry Carr, about 15 years ago.
"I said, 'Larry, you know we got a high tech hospital, we got it going here but this front entrance, we need to change this, we need to fix this. This doesn't represent who and what we are,'" Van Boening said.
As Van Boening recounted it, Carr turned to him and said, "You know, Jon, I designed this front entrance and I really like it."
"I said, 'You know, Larry, the more I look at it, I love it,'" Van Boening said, pausing for laughs. "So now that I'm the president, we have this wonderful, wonderful new front door to our hospital."
Van Boening's affection for the new entrance was evident after the ribbon cutting as he pointed out the details of the space, gesturing to the plant branches embedded in window panes and artwork.
Van Boening highlighted the outdoor portion of the project with its three rock water fountains, lighting and the ambient music, but he noted that "soothing music" will replace the party tunes that pumped out of the speakers Tuesday.
Einstein is honored in the pavilion with his name over the entryway and photos of him as a child and adult hanging on an entrance wall. On Tuesday a video featuring Einstein played in the lobby.
"There was no more deserving person to name (the project) after than Dr. Hans Einstein," Dr. Robert Laughlin, who also co-chaired the Physician Leadership Campaign, told the crowd.