The community of St. Paul lost a stalwart advocate for mental health services with the recent death of Ted Hamm, Sr. One of the earliest board members of the Hamm Clinic, Mr. Hamm continued to serve on the board of directors for more than 50 years. As a tribute to Mr. Hamm, the current Executive Director, Angie Lewis-Dmello, and past directors, Dr. Jim Jordan and Dr. Bob Nesheim shared their reflections on this profound loss.
Angie Lewis-Dmello, Executive Director
When I became the Executive Director for Hamm Clinic last year, I had the honor of beginning my work with Ted Hamm, Sr. Hamm Clinic has a long legacy of providing community mental health care to those who would otherwise not be able to access it due to financial barriers, beginning with its formation in 1954. Mr. Hamm was an integral part of the Hamm family’s dedication to the mission of Hamm, and I soon learned that he was a wonderful representative for the family on the Hamm Clinic board.
As an Executive Director, I could not have hoped for more responsive founder representatives: Ted Sr. and Ted Jr. flew in for every board meeting until the Covid pandemic! Mr. Hamm Sr. consistently checked in with me about how the clinic was doing and stabilizing after our recent leadership change.
It became apparent early on that he shared my philosophy and dedication to the needs of our clients and that this needed to be the focus of our work. He asked with clarity in a recent meeting: “Are we really serving who we should be serving? Are we serving those that need it most in St. Paul?” He was visibly invested, but always trusted the staff to know how to best meet Hamm Clinic’s mission and the vision set forth by the board. He has been a steady, stable force which has allowed the clinic to do its best work. His presence will be missed as we continue his legacy to meet the needs of our community. It is an honor that Ted Hamm, Jr. will continue with the board of directors. Mr. Hamm, Sr. will be greatly missed.
Robert Nesheim, MD, Executive Director 2010—2015
Ted Hamm Sr. was a gentle giant. Tall and imposing, soft spoken and ever gracious, he was the reliably generous spirit behind the Hamm Clinic enterprise for many decades. Ted represented part of the Hamm family in the legacy of founders, but also clearly had his own agenda for our services — to become “the Mayo Clinic of mental health.” There was always a question of sheer scale in that, but he was delighted when we partnered and published with Mayo colleagues. He was attentive to clinic staff and discerning at board meetings, encouraging projects and growth but carefully weighing proposals — a model of active board involvement and concern.
Attired in his signature sweaters for both propriety and comfort, he would appear a day before board meetings, chat easily with building staffers and haunt his own offices across the hall, never flaunting lifelong connections with the building or clinic origins. He would appear — from Florida or the Hamptons — in quiet mystery, and at other times would write us long notes with suggestions or encouragement. He enjoyed good company. He was a legendary big tipper. He clearly enjoyed life, always to his own drummer. We recall his gracious presence fondly and well.
Ave atque vale — we shall not see his like again.
James J. Jordan, MD – 1985-2010
The Hamm family members have been generous and enthusiastic supporters of the Hamm Clinic for over 7 decades, but Edward (Ted) H. Hamm Sr., who died on March 12, 2021 assumed the role of special benefactor and long-time board member to help guide and strengthen Hamm Clinic through the many changes wrought by the health care industry.
Ted Hamm Sr. was proud that the Hamm family, having the foresight to understand the ravages of mental illness, had established an outpatient, sliding-fee clinic dedicated solely to providing mental health care for those without means or health insurance. In 1954, Margaret Hamm Kelley, Ted’s aunt who had trained as a social worker, was inspired to establish a community mental health clinic, and she sought consultation with Frank Rarig of the Wilder Clinic for Children and Families and with Howard Rome, M.D., from Mayo Clinic Psychiatry. These conversations helped concretize her vision. Margaret, fortunately, had the respect and support of her father, Theodore Hamm, the successful owner of Saint Paul’s Theodore Hamm Brewery Company, and the loyalty of her siblings. The funding for the clinic initially came from the brewery profits, and the family wisely set up an endowment in The St. Paul Foundation to provide ongoing financial resources for Hamm Clinic. This proved invaluable as sliding fees and insurance were never sufficient to cover the cost of treatment. Ted thought it an honor to continue to support this legacy.
For many years Ted Hamm was a faithful attendee of clinic board meetings and his yearly generous contributions helped sustain clinic operations as the numbers of people seeking help grew. He understood and supported the clinic’s unique multi-discipline (psychiatry, psychology, and social work) training program and the research program established to provide evidence that the treatment provided by Hamm Clinic led to symptom improvement, improved work productivity, and better family relationships. Ted also introduced his son Edward (Teddy) H. Hamm Jr. to Hamm’s mission, and he mentored his son as a new Hamm generation assumed an important role on the clinic board.
As Medical Director for over 2 decades, I had a long, warm, and trusted relationship with Ted. I could go to him for advice and understanding when difficult decisions had to be made. Ted Hamm will long be remembered for his life-long devotion to the Hamm Clinic, for the wise guidance he supplied to the Board, and for his financial generosity targeted to providing high quality patient care for those in need.