Walter Henrik Moursund, medical administrator and educator, son of Albert Waddell and Henrikke M. Moursund, was born at Fredericksburg, Texas, on August 13, 1884. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Norway. His father practiced law and became a district judge in Fredericksburg. Moursund's admiration for a family physician who helped him overcome a childhood illness led him to study medicine. He graduated from Fredericksburg High School and received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 1906. Moursund practiced medicine in several Texas towns (Fredericksburg, Seguin, Marion, La Vernia, and Sulphur Springs) until 1911, when he joined the faculty at Baylor University College of Medicine, then located in Dallas, as an assistant in pathology and bacteriology. At Baylor he served variously as professor of physiology, pathology, clinical pathology, bacteriology, and hygiene; secretary and registrar; acting dean; and dean. He was dean from 1923 until his retirement in 1953-one of the longest tenures as dean of a medical school in the country.
In 1943 he took an active part in the negotiations leading to the move of Baylor Medical School to Houston. He opposed an agreement between Baylor and the Southwestern Medical Foundation for a Dallas medical center including a jointly operated medical school, since he feared that the foundation would assert full control over the medical school's operation (seeUNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER DALLAS). In Moursund's view, the move to Houston preserved Baylor's independence, ensured financial security, and opened exciting opportunities. In 1946 Baylor University granted Moursund an honorary LL.D. degree in recognition of his contributions to the medical school. The school first operated in a rented Sears and Roebuck building, but in 1947 Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Roy Cullen announced their decision to finance the construction of a college building for Baylor in the Texas Medical Center. Moursund was deeply moved by the Cullens' philanthropy; he wrote that they could not "know how much this meant to me, the fulfillment of a dream of many years." Moursund resigned as dean of Baylor in 1953 and became dean emeritus. After his retirement he wrote a history of the school from 1900 to 1953, A History of Baylor University College of Medicine (1956).
Moursund left his position at Baylor during World War I, when he served as captain and major in the posts of examiner of officer personnel in Dallas and commanding officer of the Eighth Corps Area Laboratory at Fort Sam Houston. He was a lifetime member of the United States Army Medical Reserve Corps. He belonged to the American Medical Association, the Southern Medical Association, the Texas State Medical Association (now the Texas Medical Association) and the Harris County Medical Society. He was a charter member of the board of the Baylor Medical Foundation. He also belonged to the Woodmen of the World, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Masons, and the First Presbyterian Church. In 1907 Moursund married Freda Adelaide Plate of Seguin, Texas. The couple had three sons and a daughter. Moursund died in Houston on April 2, 1959.
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Lana Henderson, Baylor University Medical Center (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1978). Houston Post, April 3, 1959.
Health and Medicine
Founders and Pioneers
Hospital, School, and Association Administrators
Texas in the 1920s
Texas Post World War II
Upper Gulf Coast
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Randy J. Sparks,
“Moursund, Walter Henrik,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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