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There’s no shortage of connections to Methodist Healthcare for Jeanne Varnell. She was born at Methodist, grew up in the United Methodist Church and her great uncle, Dr. Battle Malone, was the hospital’s first chief of staff.
“So many hospitals have a connection to this or that denomination, but they don’t really live out the faith aspect,” said Jeanne, a lifelong Memphian and member of the Hyde family. “That’s what I think is so unique about Methodist—throughout everything, they never forget the faith aspect.”
So it’s no surprise that Jeanne and her fellow board members on the J.R. Hyde Senior Family Foundation chose a project at Methodist as one of their final gifts before closing down the Foundation. The gift will make it possible to transform an unused cooling tower in the center of the Methodist University Hospital campus into a purposeful, awe-inspiring garden pavilion.
The J.R. Hyde Senior Family Foundation Garden Pavilion is one part of a $275 million expansion under way at the Midtown campus. The expansion also includes a 10-story, 440,000-square-foot patient tower that will provide innovative, quality care for patients across the MidSouth in the heart of Memphis and the Medical District.
The Garden Pavilion will contain a large meeting space for prayer services, social gatherings and medical staff meetings. The open space will also offer a place for caregivers, patients and family members to leave the walls of the clinical areas and experience the outdoors on walking paths and in lush gardens.
“It’s so needed for respite and restoration, and I just think it’s wonderful,” Jeanne said. In her professional life, she was a human relations trainer and consultant who worked with non-profits and churches. And she was the first female board chair of Lambuth College.
But family is the foundation for Jeanne. Her family includes two biological children from her first marriage, her adopted daughter, and Henry Varnell’s three children who she says she loves “like they were my own.”
She’s proud of the legacy of her family’s Senior Family Foundation and notes that Methodist was among the first grant recipients when the Foundation started 53 years ago.
“My grandfather and grandmother were both people of great faith, and the reason he started the J.R. Hyde Senior Family Foundation was so that he could give money to colleges and hospitals and mission work,” Jeanne said. “I served on the foundation board from the time I was 24 years old. I knew nothing about philanthropy or foundations, but I certainly gained great experience over those 53 years.”
Jeanne was inspired by her grandfather’s faith and devotion. Every week, he would go to Methodist to visit members of his Sunday school class— even after he lost his sight.
And she’s glad the Foundation he started was able to help Methodist continue to live out its faith and health mission.
“I just am so thankful that Methodist means what they say—that they are faith-based,” Jeanne said. “I think it makes such a difference to patients and to their families. Faith is in the attitude of all of the staff. It’s a caring community, and I think that caring goes so far in healing.”