RYLAND-L ArchivesArchiver > RYLAND > 2002-08 > 1028629588
Subject: [RYLAND] Dr. W. Kenneth Riland (D.O.), 1912-1989
Date: 6 Aug 2002 04:26:28 -0600
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Surnames: Riland, Ryland, Rockefeller, Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Burbank, Ferguson, Reed
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Ken Riland was a prominent osteopathic physician who moved easily in three worlds -- corporate America, the Manhattan celebrity scene, and in high levels of government in Washington. He enjoyed the respect of his professional colleagues and the confidences of the powerful and famous.
Riland at one time intended to write his memoirs but decided against it. Much of what we know of Dr. Riland comes from his diaries, which are kept at the Rockefeller Archive Center at Rockefeller University in New York. They comprise a record of his activities and forthright comments about the famous people he knew and treated. Many of his patients regarded him as a friend and confided in him. "His observations are often critical and highly subjective," writes Rockefeller archivist Harold W. Oakhill. Because of the frank and personal nature of many of his journal entries, much of the material is off-limits to researchers until the year 2039, at Riland's own direction.
W. Kenneth Riland was born August 7, 1912, in Camden, N. J. He was the son of H. Walter Riland (1882-1978), a YMCA executive and an officer of the American Bible Society, and Annette Burbank. I believe the Rilands were originally from Pennsylvania, descended from Andrew Ryland (1767-1823) and Phoebe Burkhart (1769-1851) -- some of whose grandsons favored the spelling Riland.
Ken Riland graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy in 1936, and went to work for the United States Steel corporation. He was associated with US Steel for most of his career, becoming the company's chief physician in 1958. He was a certified flight surgeon and was licensed to practice allopathic medicine and surgery in New York.
The comparatively new osteopathic profession was even then struggling to win recognition and accreditation in the medical community. The most dramatic difference between it and traditional medicine is the use of manipulative adjustments of the bones and muscles. Riland said, "The manipulative medicine phase of osteopathic medicine is only one portion of osteopathic medicine." The practice, he said, constituted "a comprehensive school of medicine including the medical, the surgical, the behavioral and manipulative sciences."
Ken Riland first went to Washington during World War II, when the US Steel chairman Edward Stettinius (1900-1949) was called by President Roosevelt to head the Lend-Lease program. Through him, Dr. Riland met Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979), then director of Inter-American Affairs. This was the beginning of an association that would continue through both men's lives. "Riland was perhaps Rockefeller's closest friend outside of his own family," Oakhill says.
After the war, Rockefeller was a patient as well as a friend, receiving treatments at least twice a week at his New York apartment on Fifth Avenue at 66th Street and at his country estate in Pocantico Hills. They continued after Rockefeller was elected Governor of New York in 1958. Riland, with his portable treatment table, was with him throughout his many political campaigns and appearances over the years.
Campaigning is a very strenuous activity, particularly for people of advancing years. Rockefeller plunged into it with gusto, but Riland was always ready with a little medical common sense. The voice was usually the first to go; when Rockefeller's trademark "Hiya, fella!" started sounding a little too hoarse, Riland became watchful. Not believing in even the most innocuous pills, he confiscated Rockefeller's cough drops and doled them out one at a time. He taught Rockefeller to shake hands while grasping the other man's elbow with his left hand, so "the other guy can't put much pressure on you," he told Newsweek magazine in 1968. "The idea is to have a live and active candidate in Miami Beach [at the convention]."
Rockefeller made his first bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1960. Vice President Richard Nixon offered him the vice-presidential spot on the ticket, but Rockefeller found that insulting and turned him down. After his narrow defeat, Nixon suffered a humiliating loss in the California governor's race in 1962. The following year, he came to New York as a partner in a large law firm, swearing bitterly never to return to politics.
Whatever his original intentions, Nixon managed over the next few years to rebuild his image as "the new Nixon." The first thing he did in New York was to secure an apartment in Rockefeller's building. "Nixon emulated Rockefeller when he could," Theodore H. White reported in BREACH OF FAITH: THE FALL OF RICHARD NIXON (1975). "He would later acquire as adviser Rockefeller's personal foreign-affairs adviser, Henry Kissinger; he would also acquire Rockefeller's personal osteopath, Dr. Kenneth Riland, one of the best back specialists in the business."
Rockefeller's own view of Nixon bordered on contempt. He never invited Nixon upstairs. On his third Presidential bid in 1968, Rockefeller threw in the towel early, seeing that Nixon's nomination was assured. As a matter of party loyalty, he gave nominal support to Nixon's candidacy and assented to Riland's joining Nixon's campaign to provide the same medical support he himself had long enjoyed.
One of Nixon's first actions after he took office was to ask Rockefeller to take a working group to Latin America to help formulate the administration's hemisphere policies. Riland, who was then Chairman of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the New York Osteopathic Hospital, served on that group, meeting with public health officials in 23 countries during the 1969 tour.
That same year, Riland's place in the profession was recognized by his invitation to deliver the Andrew Taylor Still Memorial Address, named for the founder of osteopathy, at the annual convention of the American Osteopathic Association. This honor might be termed the "Academy Award" of the field. (Today, the W. Kenneth Riland Memorial Lecture is a feature of meetings of the American Osteopathic College.)
Juggling his many responsibilities, Riland traveled to Washington every week or so to perform treatments on the President. The official Presidential physician was Col. Walter Tkach of the Army; Riland was Nixon's personal physician. His other Washington patients included Kissinger, presidential secretary Rose Mary Woods, Attorney General John Mitchell, and Chief Justice Warren Burger. As they poured out their troubles and confidences, Riland dictated long memoranda for inclusion in his journal. (Most of his entries are transcribed rather than written out in longhand.)
His services did not extend to two men closest to Nixon, White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman (1926-1993) and domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman (1925-1999). Haldeman and Ehrlichman prided themselves on being a "Berlin Wall" controlling access to the President, and resented Nixon's openness to Dr. Riland -- a "Rockefeller man." Riland reciprocated their disdain. It made him furious to have his treatments dismissed as "massages."
Riland and Haldeman came into direct conflict during the planning of Nixon's historic trips to Russia and China in 1972. Haldeman, who considered himself the ablest advance man on the planet, laid out a schedule that filled every available moment. Riland mainained that any itinerary should provide for what he euphemistically called "staff time," unscheduled periods of rest and relaxation. The original plan for the China trip called for a direct flight from Washington to Beijing; Riland insisted on a 24-hour stop on Guam to allow Nixon and his staff to overcome jet lag. Otherwise, he said, everyone would be vulnerable to colds, sluggishness, and irritability -- hardly the best conditions for dealing with Chinese officials. Riland's view prevailed, and Haldeman seethed.
Riland also went with Kissinger to Paris for the crucial peace talks with the North Vietnamese in 1972. Kissinger credited Riland's daily treatments for keeping him sharp during the tense negotiations. "Henry is very adamant that it was my being with him that made the Paris peace talks a success," Riland recorded in his diary. "He says this all the time, and I know I had just a minor part to play in it, but it's so nice to hear Henry Kissinger keep repeating this."
All this time, Riland continued his relationship with Rockefeller as well as with US Steel. He became more than a medical functionary, sitting in on planning meetings and even reviewing Governor Rockefeller's speeches. Often he acted as an unofficial intermediary between Washington, Albany, and the Manhattan corporate community.
Despite -- or perhaps because of -- his serious commitment to the healing art, Ken Riland had quite a reputation as a raconteur and joker, seeming to believe that "laughter is the best medicine." He liked to stay up late, swapping stories over cocktails. He could coax a chuckle from even Nixon in his dourest mood. Riland was a valued companion to have on a long flight, as he was always good for a laugh.
The laughter stopped in 1973, when the Internal Revenue Service charged him with income tax evasion. A Federal grand jury in New York returned an indictment April 10 alleging he had falsified returns from 1967 to 1971, evading over $39,000 in taxes. That day, the White House press office issued a statement that Riland had accepted private unreported payments from Nixon. Court documents later showed that statement to be false, and the White House was obliged to recant.
At first, Riland supposed that the IRS had been turned on him by some political enemy of Nixon's or Rockefeller's, and that the case was a means to get at one of them. But stunning revelations in the Watergate investigation caused him to think again. Former White House counsel John Dean (1939- ) told the Senate investigating committee of his plan to use the IRS as a political weapon to "screw our enemies." He said he had "looked into" an IRS case against a taxpayer he wouldn't name, who saw Nixon "with great regularity" and went with him to China and the USSR. It was not difficult to guess whom he was talking about.
In July, Dr. Riland learned with the rest of the nation that his meetings and conversations with Nixon had been recorded on secret taping apparatus at the White House and Camp David. Then came news that the FBI had built a file on him; it had failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing. Riland came to suspect that he was the target of a vendetta from someone inside the West Wing -- probably Haldeman himself, without Nixon's knowledge. Nixon was an enthusiast for the "Riland treatment," almost as much as Rockefeller.
Dr. Riland fought the charges in a grueling 11-week jury trial. On May 11, 1974, he was found not guilty of all criminal charges. He still owed back taxes, but an advance from Rockefeller helped him over that hump. The experience took its toll. From that point on, "Paranoia and cynicism crept into his entries," Mr. Oakhill reports. (But it's not paranoia when they ARE out to get you, an anonymous sage observed.) By then Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean had been forced out of the White House, and were on their way to Federal prison themselves.
Throughout Dr. Riland's ordeal, Governor Rockefeller steadfastly stood by him. He appointed Riland to a state commission on alcoholism even while the trial was pending. "Under our system, you are innocent until proven otherwise," he said through a spokesman. He described him as "a man of the highest integrity . . . my warm personal friend as well as my physician." Rockefeller himself was growing weary of the stench of national politics and the many problems of running the state government. Riland thought the Governor would do well to walk away from it, and was greatly relieved when Rockefeller announced his resignation in 1973.
Even more devastating was the pressure on Nixon as damning revelations mounted, and his presidency crumbled around him. Nixon was reportedly drinking heavily and self-medicating with pills such as Dilantin. "To heck with the doctor," Nixon was quoted (probably in a sanitized quote). Riland was dismayed to see the deterioration of Nixon, but he had seen it all before.
What part, if any, Riland may have played in Nixon's decision to resign, may have to wait until the release of the complete diaries. It was Nixon's only chance to save his place in history from the disgrace of impeachment and removal from office. From a medical standpoint, it surely prolonged his life. In any event, no doubt Riland greeted the resignation in August of 1974 with relief, perhaps as much for his own sake as Nixon's.
But Riland was not off the New York-Washington shuttle for long. Rockefeller accepted President Ford's request to fill the now-vacant office of Vice President. Riland prepared a detailed medical evaluation for the lengthy and contentious Senate confirmation hearings. Rockefeller took office in December 1974, soon making it clear that he intended to finish only the one term until 1977. Meanwhile, Riland was back flying to Washington each week.
In a way, it was like old times. Riland accompanied Rockefeller on his many trips as Vice President, including the celebrated around-the-word goodwill journey of 1976. About that time, he officially retired from US Steel but continued his private practice, numbering among his patients legendary New Yorkers like Tom Seaver and Katharine Hepburn.
Rockefeller died suddenly in his office January 26, 1979. Riland was stunned, having examined the governor just a few days before and pronounced him in excellent health. The circumstances of Rockefeller's heart attack led his staff and family to handle the news with great discretion. This has unfortunately led conspiracy buffs to expound fanciful theories for which there is absolutely no evidence.
In 1977 Dr. Riland founded the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine at Old Westbury on Long Island, and served as Chairman of the Board of Governors. Part of the New York Institute of Technology, it is still the only osteopathic school in the state. The W. Kenneth Riland Academic Health Care Center, completed in 1984, stands on the campus, a working clinic as well as a teaching hospital -- "a living memorial," in the words of NYIT President Matthew Schure.
W. Kenneth Riland died in New York March 13, 1989. He was survived by his wife, Therese; two daughters, Gail (Mrs. Robert) Ferguson of Miami, Fla.; and Sallie (Mrs. Pendennis) Reed of Brandon, Vt., three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. "Those of us who were privileged to work with Dr. Riland knew him to be a dynamic, spirited person, devoted to the study of osteopathic medicine for future physicians as well as his own practice in the profession," Dr. Schure said. "We will truly miss him."
[Thanks to Monica Blank and Harold W. Oakhill of the Rockefeller Archive Center and to Bill Ryland of Plano, Texas.]