Members of the DMU classes of 1990, 1965 and earlier years were celebrated as “medallion alumni” during this year’s reunion, May 21-23.
Reunion attendees included James Johnston, D.O.’65, and his wife, Virginia, who was named the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery Pacemaker queen in 1963. Candidates were nominated by college fraternities from among students’ female significant others; the judge that year was KRNT’s Bill Riley. “We were the only couple with a child and I worked,” Virginia said. “I think he was impressed that I was a working mom.”
Class of 1965 members Lewis Fraterelli, D.O., and Robert Inman, D.O., met their freshman year at DMU — then the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (COMS) — and rented a house with three other class members. They served as the best man at each other’s wedding. During their reunion, they expressed great pride in the current state of their medical alma mater. “It’s overwhelming — the campus is state of the art,” Fraterelli said. “I can’t imagine a school being nicer than this one or more academic. It’s an honor to be part of it.”
Harvey Ring, D.O.’60, shares that pride. “I’m so impressed with the whole shebang, the campus and the school,” he said. “It brings tears to my eyes, really.”
Ring got a twinkle in his eyes recalling his first day at DMU and the words of then-Dean John Shumaker, Ph.D. “He spoke to our class to welcome us to the school. He explained to us that Des Moines was home to over 50 major insurance companies, and all the farm girls from all over Iowa came to Des Moines to work in these offices, and thus the female to male ratio was nine to one,” he chuckled. “That was music to my ears at that time, because in those days I was single.”
G. Keigh Howland, D.O.’51, celebrated his DMU family connections in addition to reunion activities. His father, Gerhard Howland, was a member of the osteopathic Class of 1926; a cousin graduated in 1937. After Keigh graduated, he joined his father in practice but hit a snag when he applied for privileges at a local hospital.
“They said they couldn’t take me in, because they said I was a cultist,” he recalls. Fortunately, he went on to a rewarding family medicine practice in Corning, IA. “It was a small town, so I could take care of the people I knew.”
At this year’s Commencement, he celebrated the graduation of his granddaughter, Amy Poncelow, from the University’s physician assistant program. In addition, his daughter-in-law and Amy’s mother, LeAnn Howland, earned her master’s degree in health care administration from the University in 1999. “It was just a wonderful weekend,” Keigh Howland says.
“For us, this really is a family school,” Poncelow adds.
Robert Orr, D.O.’65, didn’t have the interview experience typical of medical school applicants. He arrived early for his interview appointment at DMU’s then-downtown campus, so he sat down for a soda in the cafeteria. “A guy comes up and sits next to me. He had a scrub suit on. He asked, ‘What brought you here, and do you like the school?’ I asked him, ‘Well, what about you? What do you do here?’ He just said, ‘I do all kinds of things here,’ so I just let it alone.
“He must have talked to me for half an hour,” Orr continued. “I went on upstairs, walked into the interview, and who was at the head of the table? Byron Laycock!” Laycock was longtime chair of physical medicine. “And he said, ‘Hi, Bob. He’s good — he’s in.’ Just like that. He had interviewed me downstairs, and I had no idea.”
What can alumni do to help current students?
Participants in a student panel on May 22 had some ideas. “Our first and second years are really tough. You’re in the books all day and you can’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Samantha Luer, D.P.M.’17. “If a student calls you, please let them shadow you or just give them some encouragement.”
Students also “think a lot about rotations,” added Elizabeth Kunjummen, D.O.’18. “We want to know where alumni are. And if you let us call you with questions, that’s very helpful.”
Saluting Dr. Sosnowski
Several members of the Class of 1965 mourned the loss of their class president, James Sosnowski, D.O.’65. He was among members of the class who went on to become the first osteopathic physicians to be accepted in the military, heginning in 1967, as commissioned medical officers rather than as medics. Dr. Sosnowski died in the Vietnam War when a shell hit the makeshift hospital he was working in on Feb. 16, 1968. He had used his body to shield his patient. Dr. Sosnowski is the only D.O. listed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.
“He was a fun person. And it’s just a shame the world was treated out of having his experience,” said Robert Inman, D.O.’65.
Sosnowski also is remembered fondly by Eugene Trell, D.O.’62. The two became friends when they were residents at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, OH — Sosnowski, in internal medicine; Trell, in anesthesiology.
“He was a truly magnificent guy. He was warm and gentle but very well informed, a very good resident,” said Trell. “He had a nice approach with people. When I found out he’d been killed, I felt like I’d lost a brother.”
Trell acted on his affection for his friend when he served as president of the Columbus Osteopathic Association (COA) in 1987-1988. Under his leadership, the association stabled the James F. Sosnowski, D.O., Distinguished Service Award, presented annually to a COA member, either retired or in active practice, who has made lifelong contributions to the osteopathic profession and/or the community.
“To lose all that talent is tragic,” said Trell, who received the Sosnowski Award in 1994. “He was a credit to our profession. It is fitting to have this award in his name.”
View full galleries from all of the reunion events by clicking the images below.