William Anlyan headshot
Centennial Spotlights

William Anlyan

To grow from a single building containing a hospital, clinics and a medical school to the sprawling mini-city of labs, clinics, classrooms, diagnostic facilities and hospitals it is today, Duke Health had to do a lot of building.

Dr. William G. Anlyan, medical school dean and the university’s first chancellor for health affairs, was the leader who drove that transition from the 1970s to the 1990s. He led the planning, fundraising and hiring of faculty Duke needed to become a national powerhouse in academic medicine. During his 40-year career, Duke Health’s holdings grew by nearly 4 million square feet, including the Duke North bed tower that is named for Anlyan.

He also built the School of Medicine’s faculty. “I looked for the best in the country or the best in the world,” he wrote in his 2004 autobiography. “I tried to look for people who were 35 to 38 and had their futures in front of them. I did not want to recruit people who regarded Duke as a nice place to retire.”

Anlyan’s tenure was not without some challenges – he had to persuade the old guard that the medical center needed to grow and become more academic. The string of new wet lab research buildings along Research Drive was questioned, and at one point the $95 million North Pavilion was called “Anlyan’s Folly” by some faculty.

Anlyan shaking hands with Eugene Washington
At his 90th birthday celebration, Chancellor Emeritus William G. Anlyan shakes hands with then Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University, A. Eugene Washington.

A Yale graduate, Anlyan joined Duke in 1949 as an intern in general and thoracic surgery and then rose through the ranks to become dean in 1964. He was a founding member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and sat on advisory boards for the medical schools of Yale, Cornell and Emory.