An article in Time Magazine changed Gwendolyn Grant Mellon’s life. The story was about Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a man who’d given up everything to treat thousands of Africans in dire need of health care. Inspired by his sacrifice, she and her husband quickly gave up their life in Arizona, committing themselves to what Schweitzer called a “reverence for life” and setting out to heal the sick.
While her husband earned a medical degree, Mellon prepared herself to become a hospital administrator and eventually oversaw construction of a hospital in Haiti. In 1956, the two opened the doors of a 75-bed hospital, serving thousands of people who previously had been without any medical care in the Artibonite River Valley. The couple named their hospital, the Hopital Albert Schweitzer, in honor of the man who was their inspiration.
A Geneva, N.Y. native and graduate of Smith College, Gwendolyn Grant Mellon was the heart of the enterprise, acting as engineer, translator and director of personnel among other duties. Over time, the hospital grew into a modern medical center and made an unmistakable impact on Haitians, immunizing 95 percent of children, eliminating tetanus and measles, and drilling more than 100 fresh water wells.
Mellon continued to serve the people of the Artibonite River Valley even after her husband’s death in 1989. After receiving the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 2000, Mellon died.