Petty Family Gallery naming honors UF pioneer in orthopedic medicine

 Dr. Bill Petty and Betty Petty at the Gallery Naming Celebration held at the Cade Museum in April 2021

Press release from the Cade Museum

The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention celebrated the naming of the Petty Family Gallery this spring. A fitting tribute to the historic medical breakthroughs of its main benefactor, Dr. William “Bill” Petty, the space has sparked wonder inside and out, from its picturesque views of Depot Park to the exciting interactive exhibits it displays.

The second-story gallery offers panoramic views of Depot Park through ceiling-to-floor windows. Visit anytime and you’ll see visitors playing brain games, creating origami, and participating in other engaging activities while lounging on the colorful retro furniture. On special occasions, visitors take in the sunset over the park during talks, cocktail hours, weddings, or company retreats.

The Petty Family Gallery’s ambiance and backdrop set the mood for the celebratory naming in April 2021. The exclusive gala featured a champagne toast, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and remarks from gallery honorees Dr. Petty and wife Betty Petty, along with Phoebe Cade Miles, daughter of the Cade’s namesake, Dr. James Robert Cade.

“Bill and Betty Petty are +1 Society Donors, the original supporters of the Cade Museum,” said Cade Museum President and Executive Director Stephanie Bailes. “Their foundational donations from 2013 to 2018 allowed the Museum to make the Cade dream a reality.”

Having donated more than $500,000, Dr. Bill Petty has also contributed his expertise to UF and Gainesville’s pioneering medical establishment as an orthopedic surgeon. He and wife Betty also co-founded Exactech in 1985.

The couple’s world-changing odyssey began back in 1969, when Bill—then a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon fresh out of medical school—stayed by Betty’s bedside as she recovered from a knee operation. Bill followed Betty’s doctors and their residents on their hospital rounds. The young surgeon would eventually lead the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopedics, a position he gained by teaching hip and knee surgery at UF Health Shands Hospital and the VA hospital, then later throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In one hospital in China, he taught surgeons to perform their first total knee arthroplasty (replacement).

Petty and another co-founder Gary Miller, a biomechanics engineer, realized in 1985 that replacing shoulders, hips, and knees would be a lot more effective if manufacturers talked more to surgeons to figure out what they really needed. The couple and Miller built up Exactech from a small Gainesville, Florida, startup to a global company with 900 employees in seven countries.

Still saving and improving lives today, Exactech develops, manufactures, markets, and sells orthopedic implant devices and related surgical instrumentation as well as biologic materials; hip, knee, and extremities-assisting devices; and foot and ankle replacement systems. In 2020, Bill stepped down as co-executive chairman and Betty from her role as vice president of administration and corporate security, to retire.

As many locals and Floridians may know, Dr. James Robert Cade is a fellow University of Florida alum. He was the lead inventor of the team that invented Gatorade in 1965. Before then, there was no sports drink industry—it was truly a revolutionary invention. Dr. Cade and his family founded the museum to help inspire the community to think creatively and approach life with an inventive mindset. Recognizing their story in Dr. Cade’s and supporting the Cade Museum as a vital nonprofit organization, the Petty family donated generously to the museum to further its work in sharing STEAM concepts with children and curious minds of all ages.

“In my role at the University of Florida, I had the opportunity to know Dr. Cade,” said Dr. Bill Petty. “We all know of his genius and accomplishments. What I remember most is his optimism, his insatiable desire to find answers, and his clear joy in both the work and accomplishment of finding needed solutions. Betty and I support the Cade Museum because we see the same perseverance and joy in the kids who explore science and achieve success in their experiments there. We believe in doing so, those kids will discover the life they are capable of.”

Petty has also supported the museum by lending his expertise to the Cade Museum’s Living Inventor Series and the Radio Cade podcast, taking curious minds of all ages to the fascinating intersection of technology and health care. He is honored among the foundational donors depicted in the museum’s sculpture garden. Artist Jenn Garrett built the “Visionaries: Learn to See” sculpture series using Gestalt images of donor profiles to honor the early visionaries who saw what the Cade could become and to inspire visitors to view the world from new perspectives.

“Bill Petty, through his achievements and personal example, embodies the knowledge, passion, perseverance, and ingenuity that inspires the Cade Museum in our mission every day,” President and Executive Director Bailes added. “We are privileged to have his name and legacy intertwined with ours and with respected fellow UF alum Dr. James Robert Cade.”