When Hershel Lamirand was named the first director of development for the OU Health Sciences Center in 1981, he knew very little about fundraising, he said. But he quickly learned, and over the ensuing 32 years on its campus, helped lead efforts that many observers credit with moving health care in Oklahoma toward a world-class status.
Lamirand, 70, retired last week from the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation (OHCF) where he, since 1991, has served as president and chief executive.
At a reception Thursday evening, foundation Board President David Harlow lauded Lamirand for his contributions to the “tremendous progress on the health center campus,” which has $3 billion in capital investments, more than 18,000 employees and an annual economic impact of $3 billion.
“Hershel has represented the mission of the campus to the state and local communities, which has helped the campus enjoy the success it is seeing today,” said Terry Taylor, chief operating officer for the foundation.
Among the initiatives that he's proudest is helping to legislatively establish the University Hospitals Authority & Trust more than 15 years ago, Lamirand said.
The historic partnership among the state, the HCA private corporation and the University of Oklahoma united — as OU Medical Center — the three campus hospitals, which were suffering financially from slashed Medicare reimbursements, Lamirand said.
“Arguably, it also saved our medical school,” he said.
Lamirand was tapped for his introductory development job by then OU HSC Provost Clayton Rich and Associate Provost David Walters, who were familiar with his efforts as a former legislative consultant to attract grant money for Oklahoma at the state and nation's capitols.
An Oklahoma City native who grew up in Mesta Park and attended area schools, Lamirand had an extensive network of friends and associates.
Part of his rebirth of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation was adding new, younger board members — many of whom he recruited from Leadership Oklahoma City. He is a charter class member and founding board member, and years later helped found its sister statewide organization, Leadership Oklahoma.
Among his other contributions, Lamirand — along with former Oklahoma City Community College professor Ann Ackerman and Oklahoma City Councilman Pete White — helped lead the effort to start the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City, which was established by the Legislature in 1983 and opened in 1990.
He visited research parks nationwide with Stanton L. Young before the city developed its own Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park in the '90s.
Young, the late Dean McGee, former chairman of the board for Kerr-McGee Corp., and past Oklahoma Natural Gas President Bill Pirtle, who died recently, were his three mentors, Lamirand said. From Pirtle, he learned the importance of effective management and humility, he said, and, from McGee and Young, work ethic and a commitment to community service, respectively.
A health scare in January 2012 precipitated his decision to retire, Lamirand said. A month after a fall, he fainted and doctors that night removed a subdural hematoma in his head that, without diagnosis, would have killed him, he said. Following surgery, doctors ordered six months of anti-seizure medications and a markedly reduced workload.
At his reception, Lamirand told colleagues he plans to spend the next six weeks at two vacation properties he recently bought — one on Grand Lake and the other in Mill Valley outside San Francisco, where his two daughters and their families live. His son and family live in Atlanta.
“Then, I'll be back home, still on the campus trying to make grants,” he said. He serves as vice chairman of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, and the Oklahoma County Home Finance Authority.