Loma Linda University dedicates the Pettis papers
B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS (right), president and CEO of LLUAHSC, presents the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson with the LLUAHSC President Medallion as Mrs. Barbara Bush looks on.
It was a day of celebrating the legacy of two people who served their country, led their community, and enriched Loma Linda University. On November 28, LLUAHSC dedicated the Jerry L. Pettis congressional papers and Shirley N. Pettis congressional papers that were generously donated by the Honorable Shirley N. Pettis-Roberson.
“Loma Linda has been a special place to Jerry and me, and I’m so honored that this great University will house the joint record of our Congressional service,” stated the Honorable Shirley N. Pettis-Roberson.
The day began with a dedication program held during the University student convocation. About 2,000 people attended the event at University Church, including special guests.
“Today we are recognizing public service,” explained Ruthita Fike, MA, CEO of LLUMC. “I would like to acknowledge two very special guests present on the platform: former First Lady Barbara Bush and Representative Jerry Lewis of the 41st Congressional District.”
Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, chancellor of LLU, noted “The remarkable gift of the Congressional papers and assorted memorabilia from the Honorable Jerry Pettis and Shirley Pettis will give our generation and future generations the privilege of remembering and marveling. For indeed these are ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives as they moved comfortably between our local community and its issues and the highest reaches of government.”
After audience members view
The dedication concluded with the ribbon cutting of the special Pettis display in the Del E. Webb Memorial Library. From left are: Lowell C. Cooper, MDiv, MPH, chair, Board of Trustees, LLUAHSC; Representative Jerry Lewis of the 41st Congressional District; former First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush; The Honorable Shirley N. Pettis-Roberson; B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, president and CEO, LLUAHSC; and Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, chancellor and CEO, LLU. The display case will feature different memorabilia about every three months.
ed “The Pettis Legacy,” a video tribute, the program continued with speeches from significant individuals.
Lowell C. Cooper, MDiv, MPH, chair, Board of Trustees, stated, “These papers not only illuminate, preserve, and extend access to this nation’s past from their unique perspectives, but they also help to bridge the gap between the academic world and public life. And for this we express our gratitude to them.
“But, in this particular community and in these health science institutions, we are indebted to these two individuals for so much more. Their contributions on behalf of Loma Linda University and the Children’s Hospital extend far beyond their roles and years in public service. Their legacy here is a strong thread in the fabric of our institutional history.”
Dr. Cooper continued to share how their legacy includes Jerry Pettis’ organization of the University Councilors, now known as LLUAHSC Councilors. That group has since then provided leadership and financial support for such projects as the Drayson Center, the Chan Shun Pavilion, and the Centennial Complex, which is currently under construction. In fact, Jerry Pettis initiated the publication of the University’s current magazine, Scope.
The Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson was the founding chair of the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board and founding member of the Big Hearts for Little Hearts Desert Guild. She has also served as a member of the University
Congressional memorabilia of the Pettises were displayed in the Del E. Webb Memorial Library during the ribbon cutting celebration.
and Medical Center Boards of Trustees and as a LLUAHSC councilor. The Shirley N. Pettis Award established by Children’s Hospital was named in her honor to acknowledge the contribution of individuals who model her outstanding dedication to children.
Next, Representative Jerry Lewis stood at the podium, noting, “I can’t remember a crowd like this in this church since my most meaningful visit—the funeral of Jerry Pettis.”
Rep. Lewis and his wife, Arlene, played a key role in Jerry Pettis’ first successful campaign for Congress. “Indeed, when we were trying to put Jerry’s successful campaign together, one of our biggest challenges was to get people in this community to register to vote for the first time,” he said.
Next, the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson spoke about her experience in the House (the full text of her speech is found on page 6) and shared a lesson with the audience. “First, each of us can make a difference, every day, and in everything we do. Further, we need the company and support of others, for none of us works alone.”
Former First Lady Barbara Bush expressed how honored she was to speak since she and the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson have been friends for so many years. She continued to disclose her insights on life. (The full text of her speech is on page 12.)
“While I may not have served in Congress myself or been a CEO of a large company,” said Mrs. Bush, “I would like
During the dedication luncheon, the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson and Mrs. Bush reminisced about their time together in the Capitol.
to share with you some of the things I have learned, which I feel define a successful life. Remember that includes 82 years of life, 62 years of marriage to George Bush… five wars, four dress sizes….” The audience laughed. “That’s not funny!” replied Mrs. Bush.
B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, president and CEO of LLUAHSC, presented the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson with the LLUAHSC President Medallion: “Because of your dedication to democracy and freedom and walking on the stage of the world with dignity and wisdom, at the same time maintaining a common touch and friendship, because of your devotion to children in this region and around the globe, and because of your extraordinary life of service, it is my honor and privilege to confer upon you the LLUAHSC President Medallion. We do that today with great appreciation.”
The Pettis Papers Dedication Luncheon followed the ceremony. Guests were surrounded by red, white, and blue decor in Wong Kerlee International Conference Center to honor the Pettises’ service to the nation. After the buffet lunch, the Honorable Shirley Pettis-Roberson and Mrs. Bush reminisced about their time together in Washington, D.C. It was evident that after Representative Jerry Pettis passed away, Mr. and Mrs. Bush were very protective of Congresswoman Pettis.
“Remember when George slid a note under your front door that said, ‘The CIA is watching you?’” laughed Mrs. Bush.
The ribbon cutting ended the day’s celebration. Guests were led to the special Pettis display in the Del E. Webb Memorial Library.
Lori Curtis, MSLS, associate chair and archivist of University libraries, assembled the display. “Before launching into the project, I worried that I was facing two-hundred plus boxes of meeting minutes, and bills and resolutions. Nothing to really grab my attention. But I was wrong!” admits Ms. Curtis. “I was very surprised at the number of letters both Jerry Pettis and Shirley Pettis answered from their constituents.”
One letter even included a Valentine from a young boy. Congresswoman Pettis wrote back, wishing him a Happy Valentine’s Day and even answering his questions, such as “do you have a dog?”
Ms. Curtis estimates that the number of letters written to constituents by the Pettises is in the tens of thousands.
“Working with the collections has given me a much better understanding of our representative government in action,” expresses Ms. Curtis. “My only regret with the Pettis papers exhibit is that I didn’t have a half-dozen more cases to fill! There is so much more material I wanted to show.”
Luckily, Ms. Curtis will get that chance since she will change the display case about every three months.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mrs. Barbara Bush summed up the day, “It’s amazing that this University will house the papers of not one but two widely respected individuals across the political spectrum. They were both committed to serving with integrity and sound judgment. And in their career they showed a commitment to equal justice and faithful adherence to the constitution and the laws of the land. It seems safe to say that these papers have found their perfect home.”
By Patricia Thio