American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

C. Rollins Hanlon, MD, FACS (1915-2011)

C. Rollins Hanlon, MD, FACS (1915-2011)

On May 3, 2011, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) suffered the loss of one of its most valuable leaders. C. Rollins Hanlon, MD, FACS, who devoted most of his professional life to the College died at his home from lymphoma at the age of 96.

Dr. Hanlon became a Fellow of the College in 1953 and served as the ACS Director for 17 years (1969–1986), making him the longest-serving Director to date. Additionally, he served on the Board of Regents and also as ACS President (1985–1986). For the last 22 years of his life, he served as Executive Consultant to the College and our Board of Regents.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, was the setting for Dr. Hanlon’s medical education and early surgical training. He was a surgical resident at Cincinnati General Hospital in Ohio and served in the U.S. Navy during and immediately after World War II on the hospital ship Repose in the China-Burma-India Theater. He was the first chair of the department of surgery at St. Louis University (SLU), MO, and a cardiac surgery pioneer.

He was the recipient of the College's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and a multitude of other awards, honors, and tributes.

He made innumerable valuable contributions to the ACS Archives. A man who was humane, in all senses of the word, and the product of a liberal education, he was a bibliophile and a man of letters. He “could give a speech that would leave an audience spellbound,” recalls Robert Johnson, chair of the SLU department of surgery and holder of its C. Rollins Hanlon Endowed Chair. “Afterward, everyone would have to grab a dictionary to figure out what he said,” Johnson remembers.1

David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, Executive Director of the ACS, said that “Dr. Hanlon will certainly be well remembered for his multiple contributions to the ACS. But what I will remember the most is his character and his moral compass. He was always focused on [answering the question] ‘What would be the right thing to do?’ ‘What is in the best interests of the College, its staff, our members, and their patients?’ That’s how he thought about things. And he was a very thoughtful man, he always thought things through carefully. That trait—his thoughtfulness—gave him a firm foundation, that made him unflappable, and also a good resource on College matters.”2

He was a protector of the history of the ACS and champion of the College’s Archives. His wife, Dr. Margaret Hanlon donated a large collection of his papers to the ACS Archives so that his legacy will be preserved for many who will undoubtedly want to study his noble life and his immeasurable contributions to the American College of Surgeons.

Indeed, the ACS Archives has lost a great friend.


  1. Grauer NA. In memoriam: Spellbinding surgeon. Hopkins Medicine. 2011;34(3):42. Accessed December 29, 2016.
  2. Nahrwold DL. In memoriam: C. Rollins Hanlon, MD, FACS, remembered. Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons. 2011;96(9):47-52.

ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.