The Marshall District Library will host Michigan Notable Book author Dr. William A. Decker as he presents samplings from his book, “Asylum for the Insane: A History of the Kalamazoo State Hospital.” This event will be held in the Meeting Room from 7:00-8:15 pm* on Tuesday, June 4. MDL cardholders register beginning May 21 and all others May 24. To register, pick up a free ticket at the Information Desk. *The author will be available prior to the presentation for book sales and signing, and to chat with attendees.
Opening in 1859, the Michigan Asylum for the Insane was a new institution in our state. Based loosely on European models, it became part of the early history of psychiatry in America. Always medically oriented, it was the first mental hospital to hire registered nurses for significant staff positions. As time went by, it grew into a huge complex complete with a lake, gardens, chapel, library, and the landmark water tower. At its busiest, the hospital had a total patient population of about 3,600 and it was operated much like a small city. In the mid- twentieth century, when Dr. Decker became superintendent, the model of mental health care began to change and fiscal concerns suggested closing the hospital. In those subsequent thirty-three years, he managed to keep the hospital open and functioning. His book, written from a unique perspective, is a valuable account of a long and important era in Michigan’s history.
Decker is a graduate of Western Michigan University and Wayne State University College of Medicine. He worked for the Michigan Department of Mental Health in many capacities over the years, including Medical Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer of the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital from 1974 until his retirement in 1987. Throughout his career of 40+ years, he has been a lecturer, has served on numerous mental health committees, and was employed as an adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and a forensic examiner. Decker has been honored with many awards in the field of psychiatry for his leadership and service. He lives in Kalamazoo with his wife, Greta. Decker has authored a second book, “Northern Michigan Asylum: A History of the Traverse City State Hospital.”
The Marshall District Library, tax supported by the residents of Eckford, Fredonia, Marengo and Marshall Townships, and the City of Marshall, is located at 124 West Green Street. For more information, please contact the library at 781.7821, x10 or visit on the web at www.MarshallDistrictLibrary.org.