Dr. Ira M. Rutkow '70 is optimistic. And he shared that optimism with a crowd at Memorial Chapel Thursday as the main speaker at the Founders Day celebration, where he received the Founders Medal.
Rutkow, a surgeon and author who has written about the history of American medicine, gave an animated speech that included slides highlighting Union alumni who made a significant impact on medicine. The discussion of notable Union graduates seemed to strike an optimistic note for future Union grads.
“You will see the impact that this little college in Schenectady, N.Y., had during 18th and into the 19th centuries on American medicine,” Rutkow said. “I'm optimistic for the faculty and Board of Trustees and the students. I thank you for the Founders Medal and thank you for the opportunity.”
Founders Day marks the 212th anniversary of the granting of the College's charter in 1795, and the Founders Medal honors a distinctive contribution to the welfare of the College.
In his speech, Rutkow, who authored the recent book, James A. Garfield, turned back to College history and discussed noted doctors like Theodric Romeyn Beck, Class of 1807, Frank H. Hamilton, Class of 1830, Levi Cooper lane, Class of 1849, Alfred L. Loomis, Class of 1851, Eliphalet Nott Wright, Class of 1882, and George Linius Streeter, Class of 1895.
“At only 32 years old, Theodric Romeyn Beck wrote a two-volume treaties on medical jurisprudence. It was the first time anything had been written in the United States and in fact the entire English speaking world on medical jurisprudence,” Rutkow said.
Union received its charter on Feb. 25, 1795. It was the first college charter granted by the Regents of the state of New York. The first Founders Day observance was held in 1896.
After graduating from Union in 1974, Rutkow earned a medical degree from St. Louis University. He went on to develop a widely used surgical technique to repair hernias.
His previous books include Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine (2005).
In addition to the Founders Medal, the College listed Dean's List students and gave out three other awards.
Laurence Brown '74 won the Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award, which honors high school teachers who have influenced Union students. Brown is a former lawyer and corporate executive who later became a high school teacher in Scarsdale, N.Y. He was nominated by William Friedman '10 and is one of the few Union graduates to receive the Hawley award.
“There I was, 49 years old, and my wife looked at me and said, ‘Okay, you love kids and you love history and public policy. It seems to be a no-brainer.' I decided to go into teaching and I love every minute of it,” Brown said.
Friedman is a Scarsdale High School graduate who was a student in Brown's social studies class. Friedman played basketball and tennis in high school.
“He might have gone to as many basketball games as I did and I was on the team,” Freidman said. “He's more than a teacher. Teaching is not where it ends with him. He just cares so much about each and every student and I though he should be recognized for that.”
Kenneth G. DeBono was awarded the Stillman Prize for Excellence in Teaching for his work as a psychology professor. DeBono is the Gilbert R. Livingtson Professor of Behavioral Sciences and specializes in the psychology of persuasion and religion.
Students Adrienne Hart '09 and Kara McCabe '09 were awarded the Hollander Musician Prize, established by Lawrence J. Hollander, dean of engineering emeritus at Union. The pair also performed a piece by Felix Mendelssohn.