Devotion to “Old Red,” UTMB’s century-old Ashbel Smith Building, runs deep. So does interest in renovation of the hurricane-damaged building, especially among the university’s alumni and their families.
The lecture hall at Old Red, the historic Ashbel Smith Building, hosted its first scheduled event since Hurricane Ike in 2008 on Jan. 31. Guest speaker Dr. Randal Reinertson lectured at a meeting of the Wilderness Medical Society, an organization for students interested in emergency care in remote settings.
UTMB officials granted a special wish on New Year’s Day that underscores the depth of interest. Ruth “Herby” Nash, widow of a physician who graduated in 1958, wanted to show her daughters and grandchildren from San Antonio where her husband, Dr. William Nash, studied years ago. Everyone would be in Galveston for the holiday so she saw it as a great opportunity.
No problem, university officials said. They opened Old Red for a special tour. “It was wonderful to see it again,” said Mrs. Nash, who also lives in San Antonio. “We are very interested in the reconstruction.”
Flooded by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the rouge-colored brick monument is the historic centerpiece of UTMB’s campus. Old Red was home to the University of Texas Medical School when it opened in Galveston in 1891. Thousands of students have attended lectures and classes in the building. Offices inside reopened in 2011 and its old-style lecture hall has been restored for use.
After graduating, Dr. Nash completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB, and practiced in San Antonio for many years. He died in 1998.
Mrs. Nash said the tour of Old Red revived personal memories and helped her family members better understand their legacy. “There were 11 of us, my two daughters, their family, and grandchildren,” Mrs. Nash said. One daughter, Peggy Nash Stoll, is a pathologist, and the other, Nancy Gebhardt, is an educator. They both live in San Antonio.
There was a surprise in store on the tour, too. The university had located three of Dr. Nash’s own specimens from anatomy class. “They were still there,” Mrs. Nash said.
Mrs. Nash’s attachment to the Galveston campus and Old Red goes beyond her years as the spouse of a medical student. Her father, the late Edward Herbsleb, often remarked about the construction qualities of the building. Herbsleb, a masonry contractor, helped build several university landmarks in San Antonio. “He would look at Old Red and say it was worth preserving just for the masterful masonry alone,” Mrs. Nash said.
She and Dr. Nash, whose nickname was “Corky,” married and lived in Galveston during his medical training. Mrs. Nash herself is a 1951 journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. She has fond memories of Galveston, the campus and beach, going fishing, and the rigors of medical school.
She and other wives of medical students joined a club called the Medical Dames, which held its meetings in Old Red. “I remember them, and the building very well,” Mrs. Nash said.
She also remembers a funny custom that defined a bygone era. Almost all medical students were men during the 1950s. As a joke, graduating classes at the time would give the wives a certificate naming them a “Widow of Medicine.” Was the title correct? “Yes, it was, especially for people like myself who married someone in obstetrics and gynecology,” Mrs. Nash said. “The calls would come no matter what hour of day. He was always on the go.”
The Nash family has established the William H. Nash, M.D., Endowed Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology to support obstetrics-gynecology students.