Hospice of Northern Virginia formally dedicated its 15-bed facility for the terminally ill in a special ceremony Sunday.

Carolyne K. Davis, administrator of health care financing for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, was keynote speaker at the ceremony, which was attended by 250 community leaders, medical professionals and relatives of persons helped by the hospice program.

"What is really important about the hospice concept is that it springs from people's desire to help others," Davis said. "I find that deeply reassuring. It tells me that the human currents of life in America are running in the right direction."

The building, formerly an Arlington County school, has been renovated to provide pleasant, home-like rooms for terminally ill patients. "Our organization started in 1977," said Dorothy Moga, executive director. "We had individuals who contributed, and churches and social clubs.

"At present we have 40 at-home patients that we offer hospice services to, including one child," she said.

The renovation cost $1.4 million, and the annual operating budget is expected to be about $1.5 million.

Larry Garrett, a member of the hospice board of directors, hugged Moga enthusiastically and declared, "You did it, you put in a lot of work."

Dr. Beth Simms, medical director of the hospice and a specialist in cancer treatment, said the hospice concept grew out of experiments in England in the 1950s.

Jane Hinkle, whose mother died in April while being cared for at her Fairfax County home by hospice personnel, said of the organization, "I can't tell you how important it is.

"My father died five years ago before there was a hospice program and there was simply a world of difference. I don't know how we would have done it with my mother if it hadn't been for the hospice."

The facility will begin admitting patients in about a month, initially with a staff for nine beds, with plans to move to full capacity after the first of the year.

George Mason University dedicated its new Holbert L. Harris Theatre, named for the late Northern Virginia philanthropist and community activist, with a special concert Saturday night. Harris, long active in local charitable causes, contributed generously to the university. His widow, Margaret Phillips Harris, was an honored guest at the dedication ceremony.

Faculty members Joseph Kanyan (clarinet), David Whaley (horn) and Malinee Peris (piano) performed works by Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Ralph Turek and Carl Reinecke.

During the intermission, a facsimile of the memorial plaque that will be installed in the theater was dedicated by university President George W. Johnson.

The plaque will read, "To the memory of Holbert Laird Harris, businessman, college and hospital trustee, humanitarian, philanthropist, devoted husband, committed churchman. He personified the virtues of faith humility and service to others.

"Through the Harris Trust . . . his generosity continues to enrich the region he loved."