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Leading A Shared Endeavor

nursing staff; by writing personal notes of thanks to everyone from housekeepers to physicians; and by hosting the annual employee appreciation events during Service Week.

"I, personally, have just really loved the annual Service Club recognition," says Varnum. "The memories from those evenings and that week really meant a lot to me, and I think it has meant a lot to the organization." The annual recognition of employee service—known now as Service Week—began under Wilson and was picked up and nurtured by Varnum. There used to be one banquet to honor employees marking five years or more. Employees become permanent Service Club members after 25 years, meaning their names are engraved on a plaque in the DHMC mall and they're invited back to the banquet even if they leave MHMH. Several thousand employees are now invited every year, and the celebration consists of two evening banquets, each one attended by about 400 employees, plus an afternoon reception.

During Service Week, 25-year employees are also presented with a silver pin at parties given by their departments. Since 1978, Varnum has attended dozens of these department parties, often giving employees their silver pins himself.

Parties are also held for long-time employees throughout the year, on the anniversaries of their hiring. Recently, Varnum attended such a celebration for Patricia Cross, who has been a housekeeper for 30 years. He gave her a paperweight made from the granite of the original MHMH in Hanover and a handwritten note that read as follows:

"Dear Pat, Congratulations on your 30th anniversary at DHMC! You have been an outstanding member of our patient-care team. You have been an important part of the many changes we have experienced over the years. Thank you for all your many contributions and commitment to serving our patients. Best wishes. You have a lot about which to be proud at DHMC. Sincerely, Jim."

Describing the occasion, Cross beams. "I don't think they'll ever replace him," she says.

Varnum confers regularly with the leaders of DMS—Dean Stephen Spielberg, pictured here in Varnum's office—and of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic—President Thomas Colacchio.

Reeves's eyes well up as she mentions Varnum's retirement —and she was not the only one to shed tears while talking about him. Then, she says, "I . . . got it together and said, 'I don't need to worry about this as much as I am. . . . DHMC is not about a single person.' " It's about 7,000 employees, all working together.

While Cross's sentiment may be true— that MHMH is not likely to find another leader just like Varnum—the culture Varnum has fostered was at MHMH before his arrival and will surely survive his departure. "Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, from its early days in the 1890s, was marked by a culture of warmth [and] patient-centered considerations," says Hennessey, who recalls the pre-Varnum era. "It was always described by anyone I ever had the privilege of talking to from the older days as a very nice place to be. Patients thought that. Staff thought that. . . . Bill Wilson continued and expanded that atmosphere of friendliness, warmth, consideration, empathy. Bill did that and he did it well," Hennessey says. Varnum has, too.

Perhaps Susan Reeves, who rose up through the ranks at DHMC from nurse to vice president, best

Varnum has been a faithful presence at staff retirement parties, such as Barbara Brewer's in 1979.

Serving burgers at the annual employee field day (here, in 1994) is all in a day's work for Varnum.

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