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

General Paul R. Hawley (1891–1965)

General Paul R. Hawley, circa 1955. ACS Archives.General Paul R. Hawley was Executive Director of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) from 1950 to 1961 and an important figure in the College's history.1 By 1950 the College had grown in size and needed a director who could work closely with the Board of Regents as well as one that could organize the staff, supervise, and direct their work. With a medical degree, and a PhD in public health, Gen. Hawley arrived at the College with a distinguished record of 30 years in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army.2 According to the Board of Regents, Gen. Hawley was the person they needed and was their unanimous choice. His appointment, however, was not greeted with unanimous approval by the College's membership. Some Fellows were distrustful of an ex-Army doctor who had not practiced civilian medicine for more than 30 years.3

Over the following 11 years as Director, Gen. Hawley played a key role in developing policies and programs that still influence the College today. One of the biggest challenges when Hawley first came to the College was the difficulty with the administration of the Hospital Standardization program. The College couldn't afford to keep it running, but its role in maintaining minimum quality standards in U.S. hospitals was vital. After negotiations with multiple other organizations—including the American Hospital Association, American College of Physicians, and the American Medical Association—a decision was made to create a joint commission in which finances, roles, and responsibilities were shared by the four organizations.4 The Joint Commission is now an independent, not-for-profit organization that still evaluates and accredits more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs throughout the U.S.5

Gen. Hawley's focus on furthering the College's mission was also evident in his incorporation of new technologies. The College was able to take these new technologies and transform Clinical Congress, the yearly membership meeting. Learning experiences at Clinical Congress were improved dramatically with the introduction of closed-circuit television, cinematography, and motion pictures.6 The ability to watch wet labs and other learning opportunities on TV rather than in a room with limited capacity was seismic.

Gen. Hawley's tenure also coincided with a period of staff growth, which resulted in the need for a larger headquarters in Chicago. As the director, he was heavily involved in finding a new space. Along with Loyal Davis, MD, FACS, and the newly created Building Committee of the Board of Regents, 55 East Erie Street—directly opposite the then current headquarters building—was identified as an ideal location. Plans were approved in 1959, and groundbreaking started in 1961, the year Gen. Hawley retired.

Paul Hawley at his desk, undated. ACS Archives.

Gen. Hawley's legacy still lives on throughout the College, not only through initiatives he led during his time as director, but also through continued education. In 1965, the Hawley Fund was established through a donation by Gen. Hawley's estate after his death. This donation helped fund the initial International Guest Scholarships program that is still going strong today. His passion to help young surgeons and improve the health care industry were important factors in his successful leadership of the American College of Surgeons and contributed to a lasting legacy.


  1. Marion E. Rapp Oral History Interview transcript June 2002, P 10–11, ACS Archives
  2. Davis L. Fellowship of Surgeons. American College of Surgeons, 1973. 376.
  3. Davis L. Fellowship of Surgeons. American College of Surgeons, 1973. 379.
  4. Nahrwold D, Kernahan P. A Century of Surgeons and Surgery. American College of Surgeons, 2012. 205.
  5. History of The Joint Commission. Accessed June 10, 2020.
  6. Davis L. Fellowship of Surgeons. American College of Surgeons, 1973. 256.