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Delores Brisbon

Hospital CEO Delores Flynn Brisbon was born February 12, 1933, in Jacksonville, Florida, to Felton A. and Inez Ellis Flynn. Brisbon attended Douglas Anderson Elementary School and graduated salutatorian from Stanton High School in 1950. Brisbon earned her B.S. degree in nursing from Tuskegee University in 1954; later, in 1974, she was awarded a sociology degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1954 to 1956, Brisbon worked as assistant to the director of nursing services and as a clinical instructor for Tuskegee University’s John Andrew Hospital. In 1957, Brisbon became director of Nursing Services at Dillard University’s Flint Goodridge Hospital. Moving back to Tuskegee, Brisbon married James Brisbon; the couple then moved to Philadelphia where she became head nurse at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in 1959. Brisbon was promoted to supervisor of medical nursing in 1962, and in 1974, became staff person to the executive director. In 1975, Brisbon was hired as director of planning and systems where she led the construction of the $46 million Silverstein Pavilion and the $116 million Founders Pavilion. In 1980, Brisbon was appointed chief operating officer, managing a budget of over $300 million; she guided a multi-million dollar construction project before retiring after her husband’s illness in 1986. In 1987, Brisbon formed Brisbon and Associates, a healthcare consulting firm which she operated until 2003.

Active in the Philadelphia community, Brisbon was responsible for negotiations with the University of Pennsylvania that resulted in the relocation and construction of the Walnut Child Care Center. Brisbon also served on the boards of Eastern University; Mercy Health System; Eastern Baptist Seminary; and Community College of Philadelphia. Brisbon founded and served as chairperson of the board of the Mother Bethel Foundation for which she has raised a million dollars. In addition to her professional activities, Brisbon has raised two children.

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Douglas Anderson School of the Arts

New Stanton High School

Tuskegee University

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Lincoln Financial Group Foundation



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He That Dwell In The High Places Of God Will Be At Peace.

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Short Description

Healthcare executive Delores Brisbon (1933 - ) served as the Director of Planning and Systems, and COO of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Brisbon later formed Brisbon and Associates.


John Andrew Hospital

Flint-Goodridge Hospital

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Brisbon & Associates

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Delores Brisbon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Delores Brisbon lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Delores Brisbon describes her maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Delores Brisbon describes her paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Delores Brisbon describes her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Delores Brisbon describes her childhood experiences in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Delores Brisbon describes two mentors that impacted her growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Delores Brisbon describes her childhood personality and schools she attended in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Delores Brisbon remembers Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor Reverend Saul Cooper

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Delores Brisbon describes her favorite childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Delores Brisbon recalls memorable teachers from her elementary and high school years

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Delores Brisbon explains how her family's support helped her attend Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Delores Brisbon describes the racism she witnessed growing up in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Delores Brisbon describes her experience at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Delores Brisbon talks about the Tuskegee Institute Chapel in Tuskegee, Alabama burned by the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Delores Brisbon reflects upon the impact of attending Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Delores Brisbon talks about her training at the School of Nursing at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Delores Brisbon recalls her training at the Tuskegee Veteran Administration Medical Center in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Delores Brisbon talks about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Delores Brisbon talks about her social experiences at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Delores Brisbon recalls her time in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Delores Brisbon recalls the racial demographics at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Delores Brisbon talks about working at John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama and Flint-Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Delores Brisbon talks about how she met her husband

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Delores Brisbon describes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Delores Brisbon remembers encountering racial discrimination at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Delores Brisbon talks about her rise from head nurse to chief operating officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Delores Brisbon talks about being the first black woman to serve as chief operating officer of an elite hospital

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Delores Brisbon remembers challenges to her leadership at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Delores Brisbon talks about her proudest accomplishments as chief operating officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Delores Brisbon talks about founding and running Brisbon & Associates

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Delores Brisbon talks about her husband's illness and why she agreed to be interviewed by The HistoryMakers

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Delores Brisbon shares her philosophy for a successful marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Delores Brisbon talks about founding and running the Mother Bethel Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Delores Brisbon talks about her work for the Mother Bethel Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Delores Brisbon talks about her volunteer work

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Delores Brisbon describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Delores Brisbon reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Delores Brisbon reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Delores Brisbon talks about her father and her husband witnessing her professional success

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Delores Brisbon describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Delores Brisbon narrates her photographs







Delores Brisbon talks about the Tuskegee Institute Chapel in Tuskegee, Alabama burned by the Ku Klux Klan
Delores Brisbon remembers challenges to her leadership at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The chapel at Tuskegee [Institute; Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] was torched by the [Ku Klux] Klan [KKK] at the time that I was there and we watched from our dormitory windows as the chapel was destroyed by fire. And it was done because of Dean [Charles G.] Gomillion's active participation in civil rights. And I think what that lesson taught me was that what you believe in you have to stand for. In ways that, only in my sixties did I realize what an impact that had made on me, that he didn't back down. He was not killed; he lived to a nice old age.$$So what year was this when the--when the chapel was torched?$$See I graduated from Tuskegee in '54 [1954], so it must have been '52 [1952] or so [sic. 1957]. And a new one was built in its place, but those windows in that chapel had been made by the students and so they were priceless collections. It was a significant pain for all of us. But I think that as a community, as a culture within Tuskegee, while losing the chapel the lasting lesson is the one that I tell you about right now. And for us--for those of us in nursing it was more vivid, because the chapel happened to sit diagonally from our dormitory window. So we could stand in the window and see those flames. And next to it were people's graves like George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, and the Moats [ph.] and the Mortons [sic. Motons], all of which who were the founders and stabilizers of Tuskegee. So as that chapel burned, we could also see the stuff falling on their graves. It was a powerful experience, but when the pain subsided it left most of us with the courage to do what we must and to do it without rancor because that's what Dean Gomillion did.$$Now the chapel was burnt. This is like prior to the activities of [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] actually, '52 [1952] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Oh yeah, absolutely.$$So Dean Gomillion, was he involved in civil rights activities on his own in Tuskegee [Alabama] in the Alabama area?$$Yeah, he was. Yeah, he was kind of like a rebel.$$I just wanna make sure he gets the credit that he (laughter).$$Yeah. He deserves it. It's a very--and he was dean of students and I don't quite know the history of what he did to bring on this, excuse me, anger but it did. But the community of Tuskegee, as well as the board was in great support of what he did--$$Okay.$$--and was way ahead of, of, of King's activity. But he then participated in King's activity when it did start. So it was mid-'50s [1950s].$$Was there any discussion about, now you may or may not know this. but was there any discussion about actually what happened that night, did somebody see anyone come on campus (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) No. I don't know that. All I know and as I--it's as vivid to me now as it was then, I can see the flames. But we really, I was not privy to any information of how it happened. I don't even recall that I heard rumor. I just know that it happened.$What was the biggest, I guess, obstacle to becoming CEO [sic. COO]?$$I was never sure. At my twenty-fifth year wedding anniversary when people from Penn [University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] came to celebrate with us, Claire [M.] Fagin, who was then the dean of school of nursing, said that I had a triple whammy that I overcame to run HUP, and that was I was black, female and a nurse. And all of those would say that I shouldn't be where I was. But--and I've always remembered that. So I was never sure. I can tell you that in many instances in which I had responsibility for making decisions, I could never tell whether the decision was challenged because I was a woman or because I was black. I don't think it was ever challenged because I was a nurse, because there was a considerable amount of respect that I knew the business. But there was significant challenge to something that as we talk, I still can't tell you what it was. Whether it was because I was black or a woman, couldn't tell. But because I was certain of what I was doing for the outcome of patients and because the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania supported and gave me their full authority, I was never necessarily inclined to try to figure out what it was. I was focused on carrying out the responsibility that I accepted. And that might have caused me a great deal of difficulty personally. I mean in, inside of my person. But I never failed the institution.$$Okay. Is there any one incident that pops out of--?$$Yeah one that pops out is that I had a habit of making rounds to patient floors because I wanted to see for myself what was going on. And on one such occasion, I happened to walk in a unit and I heard a loud voice and one other voice, not so loud, saying, "I'm sorry I didn't do that." And I walked in and it was the chair, a male white guy from Kentucky, yelling at a black woman, who was a nursing assistant. And he was reasonably loud. And I walked over to him and I said, "I would like you to lower your voice." And he said, "You can't tell me what to do." I said, "But I can fire you. Would you like to step into the utility room," and he did. And I said, "I'm [HistoryMaker] Delores Brisbon." And he said, "I didn't know who you were." I said, "But you do now and that kind of behavior, regardless of what the woman did if she did anything, is unacceptable. So you have to stop it." And because I was not as mature then as I am now, I said to him, "You've probably haven't ever dealt with a black woman anyplace in your life other than in your kitchen. I don't do my own kitchen and I don't permit that kind of behavior in my hospital." He is one of the closest people, he sends me Christmas cards and pictures and oranges every year. He is no longer working. But that probably, the tone that I was able to maintain on my--in my voice and my ability to control my anger, I think was probably one of the most outstanding experiences in my mind. There were many such occasions, but nothing as striking as that. And I had to call one other physician, I probably had more problems with physicians then I did anybody else, who really was not doing his administrative responsibility at Penn [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. And I called him on it. And he said I didn't have the authority to do anything about that and he went to see the dean. And he said, "Yes she does, as long as you're in administration she can do whatever she wants." He later retired from Penn, went to another university and most recently came back to interview me. And his question was, "Are you still as tough as you were, wear silk dresses and smile, because you are understated but you're like steel." I took from that comment that he still hadn't understood the issue. So those are two kind of lasting impressions. I still don't know whether that was because I was a woman, on either occasion, or I was black. It--they are so cloudy I can't--I couldn't articulate it, but I do know that I was challenged.$$Do you ever think it's probably both or (laughter) at the same time?$$Yeah, yeah. I think so. But I really have to tell you, it didn't bother me a whole lot about what it was, I just felt that I had accepted a responsibility to do a job, I was well paid to do it, and I had to do what I needed to do to carry out that responsibility so I could live at peace with myself. Other people's issues don't bother me a whole lot. My issues are what I examine and try to resolve.