LITTLE ROCK The president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Children's Hospital plans to retire next year, officials announced Friday.
Dr. Jonathan R. Bates will retire at the end of June after 20 years leading the hospital, the center announced during a news conference Friday morning.
The hospital will also create the Jonathan R. Bates, M.d., Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy and an endowed chair in Bates' honor. Both of those initiatives were unveiled during the news conference Friday, a surprise to Bates.
"This will be a very big help," he said afterward of the endowed chair and center. "I'm pleased that they did this. I didn't know it was coming, but they put it to good work ... I'm still trying to get my head around it actually. Because I spent a lot of time trying to sell these chairs to people."
Tom Baxter, chairman of the hospital board of directors, said the center would be funded with $3 million in private donations and would be "one of the largest pediatric quality centers in the country."
Baxter said a search is already under way for Bates' successor, noting they plan to have the new president hired July 1. Bates' last day will be June 30.
Children's officials said beforehand a significant announcement on the hospital's future was set.
Information released before the event's 11 a.m. start included a letter from the president of the Children's Hospital Association acknowledging Bates' planned retirement and thanking him for his "leadership, wise counsel, and focused energy."
A number of Children's and community leaders attended the news conference, which also featured remarks by Gov. Mike Beebe.
Beebe called Bates "the face of [the] institution" and thanked him for his leadership.