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Alabama Healthcare Pioneer Robert Chapman Credits UM as the Foundation of his Success
Hailing from a small town in north Alabama called Laceys Spring, Robert “Bob” Chapman’s plan when he graduated from Cotaco High School in Somerville in 1959 was to enroll at The University of Alabama.
But after being offered a scholarship for academic honors from Alabama College, his plans changed, and he was off to Montevallo to study chemistry with triple minors in biology, mathematics and social science.
Fast forward 16 years, Chapman, LFACHE, became president and CEO of East End Memorial Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Eleven years later, in 1986, he would create Eastern Health System, Inc., a private not-for-profit regional integrated healthcare system serving the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area with a comprehensive range of healthcare programs, contract management and professional services, selected business ventures through three hospitals, a nursing home, home health and hospice care, an ambulatory surgery center, family practice residency program, family practice clinics and an assisted living/residential retirement facility.
Eastern brought in an annual net revenue of $240 million and employed 1,800 people.
In his 37-year career, Chapman has sat on and chaired numerous regional and national boards, published multiple healthcare publications, had facilities such as the Robert C. and June Chapman Sports Medicine Facility at the University of Montevallo, named for him and won a plethora of honors and awards.
To name a few, in 1987, he was awarded the Alabama Hospital Association’s Gold Medal of Excellence. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alabama Hospital Association. He received the American College of Healthcare Executives Executive Regents Award in 1992 and was named Administrator of the Year in 1996.
The UM National Alumni Association named him its Distinguished Alumni recipient in February 2000. That same year, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s National Alumni Association also named him its Distinguished Alumni. In 2004, he received the University of Montevallo’s President Award for Exemplary Service as a Civic and Healthcare Leader and as a Distinguished Alumnus. And in 2012, the same year that his wife June died, he was inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame.
Chapman said the foundation of his success as one of Alabama’s top healthcare leaders was Alabama College, which he graduated from in 1963.
“Montevallo gave me the opportunity to get a sound education,” Chapman said. “When I started on my MBA at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, I had a core solid science background with business. That’s where my accounting teacher talked me into going to UAB’s School of Health Professions graduate program in hospital and health administration.”
He received a master’s of science in hospital and health administration from UAB in 1972.
Chapman was a proud Purple at Alabama College and played in the inaugural club basketball program. He was inducted into the Montevallo Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021 for meritorious service.
Chapman has been a donor to Montevallo for more than three decades.
His latest planned estate gift to the University is twofold. The gift will establish the Robert and June Chapman Endowed Coach, which will provide funds to support a full-time UM coach that’s recognized as national coach of the year or conference coach of the year.
His other estate gift will establish the Robert and June Chapman Endowment for Disability Services. Funding will be used to help meet the specific needs of individuals or services on campus.
Chapman said it’s important to give to Montevallo in perpetuity because Alabama College gave him the basis for his career. He feels it’s his obligation to carry on the development of budding leaders and future professionals in various fields.
“To show support of scholarships, support of other programs and services, to enable the future development of not only local leaders but national leaders in various different fields – that’s why I feel it’s very important,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me if my name is on it or not.”
“I feel that it’s not only my purpose and my mission, but it should be other people’s mission to leave something behind from that standpoint.”
Chapman’s advice to current and future Montevallo students is to get involved with people, programs and organizations to develop people skills.
These are the keys to success.
“In my career and other people’s careers, the key to success is your relationship with the people you surround yourself with. Those not only working with you but the people you become involved with.”
Learn more in the February 2023 issue of the 1896 Society Newsletter.
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