Bell Tower of Fame Award to Dr Jim Hanson

BTF 5The 35th anniversary Bell Tower Festival was officially opened in a brief ceremony Friday evening on the Plaza Stage. Ben Yoder served as emcee, and Sheilah Pound sang the National Anthem and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” accompanied by Rick Morain.

BTF 8After acknowledging Walter and Ruth Harrison, king and queen at Greene County Medical Center long term care, and Frank Drayer and Betty Mull, king and queen at Regency Park Nursing and Rehab Center, Yoder thanked and named county and city elected officials, the Chamber committees that planned the Festival, and sponsors at every level.

He then turned the mic over to Carole Custer for the presentation of the Bell Tower of Fame Award to Dr James Hanson, a physician who did notable research in genetics and environmental causes for birth defects. (See the story under the News tab for Dr Hanson’s accomplishments.)

BTF Tower of Fame 2Dr Hanson is the second generation to receive the Bell Tower of Fame Award. His father William Hanson, a federal court judge, received the award in 1983.

“I must be the luckiest guy in the world. I will never understand why I seem to get the credit and the others do all the work. That’s the story of my life,” Dr Hanson said after receiving the award. “Our society works because everyday people do the best they can in an ever more complicated world. It is they who make our world work and it is they who should be recognized up here.”

He spoke of his parents, Ruth and Bill Hansen. He told stories of advice his father gave him in kindergarten and again when he was teenager.

He said the high value put on education as he grew up in Jefferson made a difference in his life. “People here understand hard work. There’s a moral framework to their activities, and they have values that reach down to their very souls,” he said.

He told of mentors he had over the years and notable work they had done. One of them, Dr Godfrey Oakley, was instrumental in getting the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture to fortify cereal and grain products with folic acid to reduce the incidence of spina bifida. His mentor Dr David Smith was the first to identify fetal alcohol syndrome. He told of Dr Ignacio Ponseti, a colleague at the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine, who developed a non-surgical treatment of clubfoot. It was Judge Hanson’s lifelong suffering due to bilateral clubfoot that had pointed Dr Hanson to a career in medicine.

Dr Hanson named three things he learned over the years growing up in Iowa: anyone can make a difference if he doesn’t care who gets the credit; some things are “overtaken by events”; and the best way to get people to work together is to start with just one small task, and expand from there.

He shared advice he gives to students: aim high; do what you love; don’t be afraid to fail; don’t be afraid to change; and “never give up, never give in, and never quit.”

In closing, he suggested a common goal of giving credit to the people who do the work. “I think we need to find a way to let everybody share in these wonderful events. That’s what the rest of my life is intended to work on.”

He quoted from his father’s favorite poet, Robert Service, in The Cremation of Sam McGee: “A promise made is a debt unpaid. He challenged those in the audience to work together to ensure that no child ever again suffers like his father did with clubfoot.



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