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Dacy quietly documents Mayo Clinic history

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"It's been fun. It never stays the same," says Matthew Dacy, the Director of Heritage Hall. He has been a Mayo Clinic employee since 1984.

When Mayo Clinic sent out its first press release in 1986, Matt Dacy was there to experience the internal anxiety over what's now become a routine procedure.

Years later, the Chicago native marveled at the architectural ingenuity used to combine the old Mayo Building with the construction of the Gonda Building in 2001. That project effectively created a 3-million-square-foot medical facility that's now the largest medical structure in the country, and among the biggest in the world.

Dacy, the director of Mayo's Clinic's Heritage Hall Museum , in the Mathews Grand Lobby on the street level of the Mayo Building, is affectionately called the clinic historian by many.

Though he doesn't like that unofficial mantel, he proudly recalls the inaugural address delivered by former First Lady Barbara Bush beneath the "Man of Freedom" statue when Gonda first opened. An American flag had been draped over the statute's arm in memory of the victims in the 9/11 attack that occurred just weeks earlier, and emotions still were raw.

Shortly after the speech, Mayo patients filled the Gonda floor with gifts destined for New York City in an impromptu show of support.

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"The first activity here wasn't medical, it was giving back to first responders from 9/11," Dacy said. "The whole spirit here is giving to each other."

That gesture remains poignant for Dacy and many Mayo Clinic officials, who have operated under the idea that the needs of others come first since William and Charles Mayo founded the nonprofit clinic in 1919.

Dacy, who was hired in 1984, can recite names, dates and details off the top of his head for hundreds, if not thousands, of events that have helped shape Mayo Clinic into the iconic company it is today.

The 58-year-old can talk for hours about the clinic, but he shuns the spotlight while quietly toiling behind the scenes for the greater good. In fact, the only piece of medical equipment located on the first floor of the combined Mayo and Gonda buildings is the result of his personal initiative.

Dacy once read a Post-Bulletin article about a 100-year-old woman who had been transported to the hospital in a 1905 Studebaker, which functioned as Mayo Clinic's first ambulance. The history buff tracked the woman down in the early days of the Internet, and her pictures — old and new — now are displayed next to the original ambulance.

An adjoining picture of the Mayo One helicopter shows just how far medical transport has come since Mayo was founded.

"Technology will always change, but our service to patients never will," Dacy said.

Across the expansive room from the Studebaker is a wall filled with hundreds of names honoring donors who have contributed at least $10 million to the medical behemoth. However, 97 percent of Mayo Clinic's gift are less than $1,000, Dacy says.

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The clinic is in the midst of a $3 billion fundraising campaign running concurrent to its ambitious Destination Medical Center plans. The DMC project carries a price tag of $3.5 billion over the next 20 years and is expected to spur more than $2 billion in related private economic development in Rochester.

Dacy will be well past typical retirement age when DMC is fully realized, but he can't imagine leaving before DMC is complete. His name might never make headlines — and he prefers it that way — but he'll continue documenting the details in the background so the next generation of Mayo Clinic patients, who come from 140 countries around the globe, have access to the stories of yesteryear.

"It's been fun," Dacy said. "It never stays the same."

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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