One man’s home becomes a treasured space for UMKC students

By Bridget Koan

Tucked away on a side street of the Hospital Hill neighborhood in Kansas City is a redwood townhouse known as Diastole Scholars’ Center. What was once the personal home of cardiologist E. Grey Dimond, M.D., founder of the UMKC School of Medicine, and his wife, Mary, Diastole is now a gathering space for everyone to enjoy.

The name, Diastole, is fitting.

2010 photograph of E. Grey Dimond, M.D.
E. Grey Dimond, M.D. photographed in 2010

“It’s the resting phase of your heart,” says Nancy Hill, Diastole’s executive director. Diastole is the phase of the heartbeat when the heart muscle relaxes and allows the chambers to fill with blood.

“[Dimond] would say, ‘Systole (the active phase) is your job, your life, your kids, your traffic,’” Hill says. “‘You come here, it’s Diastole.’”

Hill wants the UMKC community to know how much care Dimond took in creating the Diastole space for students.

“He carefully, brilliantly, beautifully constructed this treasure for the community. His second legacy, after the School of Medicine, is Diastole.”

This year Diastole celebrates the 30th anniversary of the building’s public use, and Hill celebrates 15 years as its executive director.

“I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Especially because the first 10 years were in daily contact with Dr. Dimond.”

Diastole as we know it today was built in phases, each one developed personally by Dimond. Hill recalls that Dimond used to joke that he needed Diastole to store all his stuff.

“Each piece has a story,” Hill says. “He was such a renaissance man. He knew what he had done. He was very confident and happy and content that Diastole and the School of Medicine were going to be around.”

When guests step into the building, they enter another world filled with treasures: artifacts, mementos from Dimond’s travels, historic documents, gifts and more.

Any group can rent the Scholars’ Center, with about 75 percent of bookings being UMKC-related. Many community nonprofits use the space for retreats, making Diastole a niche venue.

“We’re blended into the landscape deliberately,” Hill says. “We’re as busy as we can possibly manage without advertising.”

And according to Hill, that adds to the appeal. When people ask, “Do you know about Diastole?” not everyone will answer yes. And that’s okay, because when they hear about Diastole, they want to know more.

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