On Thursdays, we highlight an oral history featuring a health care leader who shaped the past and laid the foundation for the future. Since
1978, the AHA has conducted more than 100 interviews as part of this project, and transcripts are available in the oral history collection on the AHA’s Resource Center webpage. The following oral history with William Robinson comes from an interview conducted in 2010.
William T. Robinson, the child of two English immigrants, grew up in New York City during the Great Depression and World War II. After completing a year of undergraduate studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., Robinson volunteered in the Army during World War II. Despite two previous rejections for Airborne, the Army eventually accepted Robinson into the 11th Airborne Division in Northern Honshu, Japan, where he spent the rest of his time during the war. Upon returning from the war, Robinson finished his undergraduate studies at Trinity and began his professional career as a teacher.
During his two years as a teacher, Robinson’s recounts his major takeaway – economics. His monthly salary was around $100, forcing him to begin a part-time job underwriting group life insurance at Aetna. To support his expanding family, Robinson left teaching to begin full-time work at Aetna — eventually leading to an opportunity to work for the American Hospital Association. After meeting with George Bugbee and past AHA president John N. Hatfield, Robinson accepted a role that utilized his insurance experience as the association lead efforts to create an insurance manual for hospitals. He spent most of his career in association work, including time at hospital associations in New York State and Massachusetts before returning to the AHA as a senior vice president. Robinson also committed three decades to service to his country in the United States Army and the Army Reserves, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In this oral history, Robinson explains that he would like to be remembered “as a state exec who got along with the state execs.” Read the full oral history transcript.