All Romeo had to do was ask "What's in a name?" and he was famous for 400 years. But after more than a century, Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University and its associated hospital are still looking for what's often not in their name.
"Milton Eisenhower was invited to speak in Pittsburgh," according to Susan Hartt, director of university information, "and he was introduced as the president of 'John' Hopkins University. He got up and said, 'It's a pleasure to be here in Pitt'burgh.' "
Hartt calls it "The Mistake" -- the tendency of writers and non-Baltimoreans to cut Johns Hopkins short a letter -- and publicity staffers are betting their S's on a new pocket-sized pamphlet called "All About Johns."
Less than four inches square, and folded accordion fashion, the two-tone rogues' gallery of famous Johns runs the gamut from respectable (John Adams) to revolutionary (John Hancock), from robber (John Dillinger) to rocker (John Lennon) to rock-jawed (John Wayne).
John Q. Public made it, as did John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt -- although Bal'merized by the copywriter to Smith -- but there's no Kennedy, no Rockefeller, no Bull, no -Boy. At the end, the copy makes a restrained plea for using "our distinctive name . . .correctly and often."
"It almost never fails," Hartt said. "We go to all the trouble of arranging for one of our experts to be on a morning news show, and it crawls across the bottom of the screen, 'John Hopkins University.' "
Only a month old, the campaign has proved remarkably popular. Students are picking up stacks of folders to send home, faculty members are being urged to carry the pamphlets in their wallets. There are no plans to follow up the 50,000-copy printing, but T-shirts can't be far behind.
It's a risky strategy, and a little risque', Hartt admits. But as they say in Hollywood, it isn't what they write about you so long as they spell your name right. Besides, $7 million -- which is the amount of Hopkins' 1873 bequest -- ought to be enough to cover his S.