Former UNMC Chancellor Charles Andrews, left, talks to Bob Bartee, vice chancellor for external relations, at a 2018 retirement party for Bruce Buehler, former director of the Munroe-Meyer Institute at UNMC. Andrews died at the age of 94 on Saturday, following a recent stroke.

Known to friends and colleagues as quiet yet capable of making tough decisions, Dr. Charles Andrews also is recognized for his key role in setting the University of Nebraska Medical Center on many of the pathways it continues to follow today.

Andrews, UNMC’s fourth chancellor, was instrumental in establishing UNMC as a leader in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation. He also targeted cancer, rural health, geriatrics and biotechnology as areas of excellence.

Andrews, who served as chancellor from 1983 to 1991, died Saturday at the Nebraska Medical Center following a recent stroke. He was 94.

“I personally would give Charlie Andrews credit for the beginnings of making UNMC a great institution,” said former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was Nebraska’s governor while Andrews was chancellor. “I think Charlie laid the foundation for what we have today.”

Andrews’ formula for success, according to a 1990 interview with The World-Herald, was simple: Obtain the best facilities you can, recruit top faculty members and researchers and let them go about their work.

Andrews said at the time that he encouraged staff and faculty to forge ahead with innovative research projects. From 1983 to 1990, total research grants grew from $5.8 million to $19.6 million.

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Economic times were tough in the mid-1980s, and the state faced budget cuts. Andrews proposed closing the College of Pharmacy and other programs rather than across-the-board trims.

Ultimately, the Board of Regents voted down the proposal. Andrews, according to UNMC archives, got funding to start the liver transplantation program, which has become part of its busy solid organ transplant program. As of Oct. 31, teams had transplanted 268 organs in 2019. If that pace holds, they would be on track to transplant 322 for the year.

“It was a watershed moment that had lasting impact,” said Dr. Michael Sorrell, professor and distinguished chair of Internal Medicine. “I have always felt that he was one of our greatest chancellors, and his stand during the pharmacy controversy was extraordinary.”

When Andrews arrived, the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases was one of 15 basic laboratory research centers in the U.S. Today, it’s under the umbrella of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, one of 69 National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the country.

Andrews also helped initiate several UNMC programs that address the shortage of rural health professionals in Nebraska. Kerrey said Andrews had the insight that the best way to increase the number of practitioners in rural Nebraska was to recruit them from rural Nebraska. “It has worked not just in Nebraska but elsewhere, too,” he said.

Dr. Jane Potter, a professor in UNMC’s geriatrics, gerontology and palliative care division, said Andrews felt strongly that older Nebraskans deserved attention from UNMC.

The University Geriatric Center, where students in multiple fields could receive training in geriatric care, opened in 1988. The geriatrics program is now housed in the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging.

Before joining UNMC, Andrews was a faculty member and vice president for health science at West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown, for 21 years. Prior to that, he’d held faculty positions at the University of Minnesota, the University of Kansas City School of Dentistry and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

He remained active after retiring from UNMC, serving as interim executive vice chancellor for the University of Kansas Medical Center from 1994 to 1995. He also served as chief medical officer for Nebraska in the late 1990s.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 during World War II and as a captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War.

Andrews was preceded in death by Theresa (Terry) Paoletti, his second wife of 33 years.

Survivors include his first wife, Evelyn Andrews of West Lebanon, New Hampshire; their daughters, Mary Andrews of Hanover, New Hampshire, and Evelyn Reilly of Grants, New Mexico; stepson Jeffrey Paoletti of Brooklyn, New York; and two grandchildren.

To plant a tree in memory of Former Chancellor Dr. Andrews as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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