The VOICE of UPMC Shadyside Winter 2021–2022

Gift Honors “Our Family’s Hospital”

A family makes a generous donation in memory of a much-loved Pittsburgh couple

A family with a long history of caring about Shadyside Hospital has made a significant gift in memory of Kay Murtland Ebbert Childs Bissell (1942–2020) and G. William (Bill) Bissell (1938–2020).

“Shadyside has been our family’s hospital for generations,” says George W. Childs, who made the gift with his sister, Louise Kay Childs Woodside, and brother, John B. Childs, Jr. They are the children of Mrs. Bissell and the stepchildren of Mr. Bissell.

“Whenever visiting at the hospital or on our way to an appointment, Bill and I would often walk past the wall with the memorial plaques on it between Posner Tower and the Shadyside Medical Building,” George says. “He enjoyed seeing the names he recognized, as do I. It reminded me, again, of how much our family and friends have cared about this hospital — and what excellent care my mother and stepfather both received here, especially in their later years.”

Kay Murtland Ebbert, the daughter of Lowrie Childs Wurts Ebbert and George Singer Ebbert, Jr., was born in Shadyside Hospital in 1942. After attending the Ellis School and graduating in 1960 from Garrison Forest School outside Baltimore, Maryland, she attended Briarcliff Manor Junior College. In 1962, she married John Burgwin Childs, Sr., of Pittsburgh, at Calvary Episcopal Church, where she was a sixth-generation member. The couple moved to Connecticut, where he taught at Salisbury School.

In 1974, Mr. Childs died, leaving his young widow with three children: John Burgwin Childs, Jr. (Jay), George, and Louise Kay. Kay brought her family back home to Pittsburgh and soon took a job as administrative assistant to the Head of School at Shady Side Academy Junior School, a position she held for 28 years, serving five different heads.

“All of the parents and students there knew that she ran the place,” laughs Louise Kay. “She understood the culture. She provided a stabilizing presence throughout the multiyear transition from all-boys to co-education. She had trained as a secretary at Briarcliff, aspiring to be a corporate secretary for the CEO of a major company. She easily could have done that when she returned to Pittsburgh,” Louise Kay says, “but she wanted a job that was going to jibe with our school schedules.”

Kay was devoted to her children, seven grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, as well as to her greatnieces and great-nephews. After retirement, she reveled in her role as grandmother, welcoming her grandchildren into her kitchen for a snack and a chat after school.

She kept in touch with Shadyside Hospital through her father, George Ebbert, who served as a trustee of the hospital and as president of the Shadyside Hospital Foundation from 1983 to 1987. “He was always pleased that the Foundation was able to sponsor advances in fiber optics to help minimize invasive surgeries,” says George. Especially interested in the training of excellent nurses, Mr. Ebbert made significant gifts for nursing scholarships.

In 1988, Kay Childs married G. William (Bill) Bissell, a lawyer, gifted storyteller, and supporter of many philanthropic endeavors. A deeply rooted resident of the Point Breeze neighborhood, he was devoted to Kay, her children, and her grandchildren.

After attending Linden School and Shady Side Academy, Bill graduated from St. Paul’s School in 1956, Williams College in 1960, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He spent his early legal career at the Pittsburghbased firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart (now K&L Gates) before practicing estate law independently. Bill served as treasurer of his beloved Calvary Episcopal Church and as president of the St. Paul’s Alumni Association of Pittsburgh. He actively supported such organizations as The Neighborhood Academy, the American Indian College Fund, the Central Blood Bank (now Vitalant), the Extra Mile Education Foundation, and the United Way of Allegheny County.

Bill was particularly instrumental in rescuing and restructuring the National Hemophilia Foundation when it required new leadership in the late 1970s and into the new decade. “This was a major undertaking done on a totally volunteer basis,” Louise Kay says. “For a year and a half he lived in a small apartment in New York, straightening out the organization’s finances and governance, and setting it on a healthier course for the future. With the help of new leadership on the national board, he was credited with saving the organization, but he would never say that. He was too modest.

“Everyone knew Bill was trustworthy and that his actions followed his words.”

In 1986, Mr. Bissell became the inaugural recipient of the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Robert Lee Henry Award, named for the organization’s founder, in gratitude for his outstanding service. “He was the obvious first choice for the award,” George says.

“Bill taught us about the importance of philanthropy and helping people,” remembers Louise Kay. “For instance, he was concerned that isolation was a problem for people living with hemophilia. So, when I was young, he introduced me to a boy about my age who had hemophilia. Bill wanted me to help keep him from becoming lonely, so we would visit him and do activities together.

“Bill was a very kind and thoughtful person.”

Jay adds, “He became a scholar of philanthropy, motivated to effect real improvements, as he generously supported the organizations and causes that inspired him. In his turn, Bill inspired others with his love for the history of Pittsburgh, and particularly the political characters he knew.

“Perhaps most of all, we remember Bill’s utter devotion to Kay during their thirty years of marriage.” All of their children are grateful for the care their mother and stepfather received at Shadyside and are particularly appreciative of the late Drs. Abe Friedman and Murray Sachs and of Drs. Antonio Achkar, Franklin Bontempo, and Jennifer Gonzales McComb.

“Jay’s, George’s, and Louise Kay’s generosity is truly inspiring,” says Louise Brown, executive director of the Shadyside Hospital Foundation. “It shows Shadyside’s deep, meaningful roots in our community, and it honors the wonderful patient care today. We thank them so much.”