The history of Fairbanks’ named spaces
As Fairbanks approaches its 75th birthday in another year, stories about its history are being told. Reminders of some of the important and generous people of our past are present each day as we see their names on rooms and places throughout the facilities.
Cornelia Cole Fairbanks (The Main Facility)
Robert Nevitt, M.D., and William Brady started the Indiana Home for Alcoholic Men in 1945, but the story of the name change to “Fairbanks” dates to a time much earlier. Charles Warren Fairbanks, an Indiana native, was the vice president of the United States under Teddy Roosevelt from 1905-09. His greatly admired wife, Cornelia, was often called the most powerful woman in the county because of her role as leader of the Daughters of the American Revolution. No one admired her more than Charles, and to ensure that she would be remembered his Last Will and Testament included a $50,000 gift to create the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Trust Fund. He stipulated the fund’s interest was to be donated to an Indianapolis charity at the end of every 50-year cycle. His grandson, Richard M. Fairbanks, Jr., was present at the meeting regarding the fund in the late 1960s. At that time he owned a local radio station called WIBC. His experience with an employee who he called “a good man who was a problem drinker” helped determine that the money be given to one of the applicants, the Indiana Home for Alcoholic Men. The application explained their campaign to raise money to build a new facility designed to include women at a site that Mayor Richard Lugar had helped them secure west of Methodist Hospital. With the generosity of the community and the $250,000 trust fund gift, the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Home opened in 1970. “Home” changed to “Hospital” a few years later after the organization became the first in the State of Indiana to receive Joint Commission accreditation for alcohol treatment. Soon, in addition to women patients, adolescent care was introduced.
It was less than 10 years before administrators determined a need for more services than the hospital could provide. They began planning for an even larger location, which opened in 1982 and is Fairbanks’ present facility at 8102 Clearvista Parkway on the city’s northeast side.
Richard M. Fairbanks (The Recovery Center)
Richard’s generosity toward Fairbanks grew along with his wealth as he developed his radio empire. His donations helped to ensure that Fairbanks remain solvent financially when margins were lean. He was a powerful believer in the mission, especially as it helped men and women move from addiction to self-sufficiency. After his death in 2000, his foundation contributed grants for program expansion and generous assistance to each of the capital campaigns that helped to renovate the building, add a new cafeteria and build the Recovery Center. As the new building was completed in 2007, the corner stone marked the dedication of the Richard M. Fairbanks Recovery Center. In addition to the building, his legacy is honored each year with the presentation of The Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award. The first was presented to his son Richard M. Fairbanks III in honor of his father.
William Krieg (The Kreig Conference Room)
William Kreig was a prominent Indianapolis attorney and founding partner of Krieg DeVault. His generosity and commitment to the community included his service and leadership on the board of Fairbanks from 1970 to 1984. He encouraged community volunteerism and philanthropy as part of the firm’s culture. An example is that a member of his firm has continued to be involved as a member of the board of directors throughout all the years since he served. As he was an avid traveler, his presence was also noted through the framed photographs he provided from his African safari adventures.
Buck Bruner (chapel)
Buck was a successful Indianapolis insurance agent who was always grateful for finding recovery in the early 1950s at the Indiana Home for Alcoholic Men. Throughout his life he continued to serve the organization as a board member and generous donor that included funding for the first chapel at Fairbanks. He remained active in AA all his life as a sponsor and speaker. Many men and women specifically came to the meetings when he was present. He was open about his alcoholism at a time when the stigma was much more prevalent. He had over 40 years of continuous sobriety when he died. His support was untiring. Buck was named an emeritus board member and in that role occasionally attended board meetings even when his health was failing.
Robert Martz (Martz Board Room)
The current Fairbanks board room is named for Robert Martz. Bob was a local entrepreneur and owner of a major catering business. He served on the board from 1986 to 2003. As chair of the board in the 1990s, he was part of the executive committee that grappled with how to keep Fairbanks open in the late ’90s when it was nearly financially insolvent. Among the options discussed was allowing Fairbanks to be absorbed by a larger hospital or closing. Even though other hospitals expressed interest in taking over Fairbanks, Martz resisted, fearing that the whole continuum of care would be lost. At his retirement from the board, he was named an emeritus board member. A portrait of Bob was commissioned after his death. Included with him are symbols of his passions: a golf club, a pin on his lapel of the new logo adopted in 2001 and next to him the Big Book from AA. The background of the portrait is the pathway and door entering Fairbanks.
Russell and Robert Fortune (Fortune Hall)
The Fortunes were known as a prominent Indianapolis business family in Indianapolis whose generosity touched Fairbanks. On the plaque below his portrait it says that Russell Fortune was “an early AA admirer.” He understood the power of the program through his friends and colleagues, and with his family they promoted treatment and the life changes of the AA program. Next to him is a portrait of his son Robert “Pete” Fortune who served on the board of the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Home; he helped to develop the plan to relocate and was a generous donor during the capital plan that resulted in building the current facility. Pete continued his board service at the then new location.
La Verna Lodge
Laverna Lodge was started by an anonymous Indianapolis resident who wanted to ensure that the Midwest had a long-term recovery house for men similar to those he learned about in the West. He began his work in the mid-1990s, created a nonprofit organization, purchased a large home in Carmel and hired clinical staff. He named it for a place, La Verna in Casentino, Italy, where Catholic tradition believes St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, a term used to describe the manifestations of bodily wounds, scars and pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Christ. The lodge was generosity transferred to Fairbanks in 2002.
William “Rusty” McKay (Serenity Garden)
The cafeteria patio is named after William “Rusty” McKay, who began his commitment to Fairbanks in 2000. He is a former board chairman and a nine-year board member of both Fairbanks and Hope Academy. He was named a Fairbanks emeritus board member after completing term limits. The need of his wisdom remained and a year later he was asked to serve again. He accepted and continued until this past year, making him one of the longest serving members of the organization. A successful entrepreneur, Rusty was instrumental in adding financial benefit to Fairbanks by introducing many prominent and generous citizens to the mission. He is particularly known for his personal generosity and untiring assistance to many individuals who seek recovery. Hundreds of people have been helped because of his compassion and commitment. Rusty was awarded the Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope award in 2014.
Phyllis Usher (Hope Academy library room)
When research was taking place to determine whether Fairbanks would add to the recovery continuum for adolescents by adding a high school, it was noted that there were many “educated” persons on the board, but no one with a formal education background. The recruitment began and with it Phyllis Usher was interviewed. At the time Phyllis was the deputy superintendent of public instruction for the Indiana Department of Education. Not only did she graciously accept the appointment, she was helpful in developing the curriculum for Hope Academy and has been a generous donor. Phyllis also served on the Fairbanks board from 2004-12 and is currently secretary of Hope Academy’s board. She was recently honored as one of the United Way of Central Indiana’s 100 Heroes for its centennial and given the Spirit of Service Award by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Dr. Chris Stack (Hope Academy science room)
Dr. Stack is a retired orthopedic surgeon who also served as a Navy SEAL. He graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA from Northwestern University before deciding to go to medical school in his 30s. Stack was serving on the Fairbanks board when he volunteered to be the chair of an ad hoc committee charged with researching whether Fairbanks should start a school. Following the board approval of the proposal set forth by the committee, Chris became a constant advocate through all the required approval processes necessary in order to receive the charter. Twice he left vacations in order to be present for meetings with the Mayor’s Charter School Board and City County Council. In addition to serving his term limits on the Fairbanks board, he also served as a member and chairman of the Hope Academy board. He was generous financially and with his time to help ensure Hope Academy’s further success.
Lucy Jane King (Recovery Center conference room)
Dr. King, a clinical professor of psychiatry emerita at Indiana University School of Medicine, volunteered for Fairbanks as an educator and director of research. When she began her involvement, Fairbanks had a contract with the State of Indiana to provide addiction education to counselors working in state-operated facilities. Lucy’s volunteerism took her to wherever training was needed. Lucy also volunteered to research and write Fairbanks history for the celebration of the 60th anniversary. In doing so she became enamored with the life of Cornelia Cole Fairbanks and subsequently wrote and published a book about her. She is also the author of Under the Cloud at Seven Steeples. Lucy developed the idea for the Susan Li Conference, now conducted annually at Fairbanks and Hope Academy, as a way to honor Susan Li. Susan taught social work at IUPUI and was married to Ting-Kai (T.K.) Li, who served as director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center at IU’s School of Medicine. His testing on rats resulted in the understanding that alcoholism is genetic, research that is still being carried out worldwide. T.K., who also served on the Fairbanks board, was eventually recruited to lead the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in Maryland.
Drs. Tim and Becky Kelly (Recovery Center Serenity Room)
The Kellys are the most prominent addiction-serving physicians in Indiana. Both are board certified in addiction medicine and devoted their medical careers to this work. Tim’s connection to Fairbanks started with his dad, a man in recovery who worked at the Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Home. He encouraged Tim to “moonlight” there while in medical school. Tim stayed on after graduating and became Fairbanks’ medical director when the organization moved to its current location. Tim served Fairbanks for over 35 years. Becky worked there for 30 years until 2010. They are known as outstanding physicians, addiction educators and for embracing innovative methods to treatment. Tim has served on state and local addiction task forces and his consultation is sought from other physicians and policy leaders throughout the county. Becky is past chair of the Indiana chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Tim was the second recipient of the Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award. He is currently the director of addiction medicine at Community Health and serves on the board of Progress House. Becky serves on Hope Academy’s board. Thousands of people in recovery today say that they owe their lives to Tim and Becky.
Helene Cross (Recovery Center street)
Accomplishments that took place during Helene’s tenure as president and CEO of Fairbanks from 2001 until her retirement in September 2012 include three major capital projects that resulted in a total renovation of the building and the construction of the Recovery Center, new cafeteria and additional patient wing as well the acquisition of La Verna Lodge for Men. Her organizational leadership ability returned Fairbanks to financial solvency, retired over $750,000 in debt and created a reserve fund of over $10 million. Helene reconnected Fairbanks to the community and gave it a renewed national presence. She worked to add diversity to the board, term limits and the assurance that member recruitment was directed to areas of needed wisdom. Certainly the financial woes of the ’90s were her major challenge when Helene took over, but for her the biggest change she is proud of is the mission focus on not just care and treatment, but on recovery. It sparked her passion to spearhead program changes, the development of Hope Academy and her advocacy then and now for individuals who seek hope through recovery. Before her retirement Helene received the American College of Addiction Treatment Administrators Annual Achievement Award along with The Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award. Her presence remains with the support she continues to provide.
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