Columbus Regional Health launched its year-long celebration of its 100th anni- versary Monday by throwing a birthday party for staff, community leaders and contributors.

A full Kroot Auditorium at the hospital was welcomed by hospital president and CEO Jim Bickel, who said he had just finished an onboarding session for about 15 new employees for the hospital.

“How cool is that — starting on the 100th anniversary of the hospital,” he said of the Feb. 6, 1917, founding of the hospital’s predecessor, Bartholomew County Hospital.

Bickel recognized two former hospital CEOs in the crowd, John McGinty Jr. who led the hospital beginning in 1985 and 1986 and Douglas J. Leonard, who became CEO in 1998. Both signed commemorative books about the hospital anniversary for staff members after the event.

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He also honored Art and Bobbi Kroot for the Kroot family’s generosity to the hospital which began when Art’s father gave money for a “Kroot Room” in 1953. When a larger room was needed, the family pitched in again to supply funding for the Kroot Auditorium, where Monday’s ceremonies were conducted. The family also donated money toward the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and Bickel said they had given a substantial donation Monday in honor of the anniversary.

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop brought a proclamation which recounted the hospital’s rich history in the community. Lienhoop told the hospital staff that one of his favorite things is to participate in milestone events such as a 100th anniversary.

And when he completed reading the proclamation, he received applause and laughter for what he didn’t put in the proclamation. “I don’t want to be flippant, so I didn’t put this in here, but in 1953 I was born here,” the mayor said.

The hospital’s marketing staff had worked for about a year putting together a video of the history of the facility and how the hospital became what it is today.

It includes comments from Administrator Olive Murphy, who was named the hospital’s first leader, and also interviews with Leonard, McGinty Jr. and Bickel. The hospital’s recovery from a devastating 2008 flood is recounted, along with its transformation into its facility today.

The video is narrated by former Republic associate editor and current Bartholomew County historian Harry McCawley, and is available on the hospital’s website for the public to view.

It wouldn’t be a birthday party without a cake, and the hospital commissioned “Icing on the Cake” in Nashville to create a replica, in icing, of the first Bartholomew County Hospital.

Rather than have a single party, Columbus Regional Health and its employees are embarking on a year-long effort to do volunteer projects through community agencies in honor of the anniversary.

A year-long celebration

Columbus Regional Health staff will spend 2017 giving back to the community. To learn more about the projects, or to view the video history of the hospital, visit

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.