Shirley Pettis-Roberson honored for outstanding support of LLUCH
B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, president of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, presents the Honorable Shirley N. Pettis-Roberson with a plaque naming the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital unit 4800 as the Jerry L. and Shirley N. Pettis Family Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant Wing.
“We have come to reflect on your legacy on behalf of the children of our community,” began B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, president of Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, at an evening dinner in recognition of the Honorable Shirley N. Pettis-Roberson for her untiring support of Loma Linda University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital. The event, held at the Club at Morningside in Rancho Mirage, took place on April 2.
“You have helped us through your model behavior to become better people,” continued Dr. Behrens.
Roger Hadley, MD, dean of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University, also paid tribute to Ms. Pettis-Roberson.
“On behalf of all the physicians, thank you for your support of the children who do not have the benefit of good health,” he said. “Cancer in children is still a major problem. Our staff is working daily to make their lives better, and that’s only possible with the support of the community.”
At the dinner, Dr. Behrens revealed that to honor Ms. Pettis-Roberson and her late husband, the Honorable Jerry L. Pettis, the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital unit 4800 has been named the Jerry L. and Shirley N. Pettis Family Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant Wing.
“Cancer afflicts infants,” commented Dr. Behrens. “Cancer afflicts children. Cancer afflicts adolescents, as well as adults. You will leave behind a legacy that will transform the lives of children.”
Ms. Pettis-Roberson thanked the group for the special honor with a few brief remarks.
“I think of the days when we were starting the Children’s Hospital,” said Ms. Pettis-Roberson. “There were many challenges. I remember when they asked me to be a part of the team, and my husband told me ‘You have enough.’ But I don’t always listen to my husband. So here I am tonight. Dr. Behrens has always been an inspiration to me.”
Born in Mountain View, California, Shirley Pettis-Roberson was raised in the environs of higher learning institutions. As the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Harold McCumber, many of these years were spent at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. She later returned to California and married Dr. John (Jake) McNulty while furthering her education at the University of California at Berkeley. Jake died while serving his country during World War II.
Shirley married Jerry L. Pettis in 1947. Together they pioneered innovative technologies in high-speed duplication of magnetic tape. This new technology led to the first use of tape in automobiles and the formation of a worldwide tape service to physicians called Audio-Digest. Shirley co-founded and managed the Audio-Digest Foundation, an organization dedicated to the continuing education of physicians, until they transferred it to the Californian Medical Association.
The Pettis family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1967 following Jerry’s election to Congress. At his passing in 1975, Shirley ran against 12 men for the vacant seat and was elected to the 94th Congress. While in Congress, she was a member of the Interior, Education and Labor, and Foreign Affairs Committees. She served through the 95th Congress until her retirement in 1979.
During the Reagan administration, she was a member of the President’s Arms Control and Disarmament Commission and vice president of the Women’s Research and Education Institute, as well as a trustee of the University of Redlands.
Shirley returned to the world of business and served on Kemper Group’s various corporate boards from 1979 to 1997. She married B. Ben Roberson, MD, an anesthesiologist, in 1988. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush appointed her to be a member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars. That same year, Loma Linda University asked her to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees, as well as the Medical Center Board. She retired in 1995.
She has been named Distinguished Woman of the Inland Empire; honored as Woman of the Year of the Coachella Valley; received awards for public service; and for many years been listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women, Who’s Who in the West, and Who’s Who in American Politics.
At Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, Shirley has been an invaluable supporter. She was the founding chair of the Foundation Board and co-founder of the Big Hearts for Little Hearts Desert Guild. In recognition of her service to improve the lives of children, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital established the Shirley N. Pettis Award to recognize individuals who also demonstrate outstanding dedication to children.
By Preston Clarke Smith