Dreams need support. John Dick III M.D. ’63 understands this from first-hand experience.
That’s why, in fall 2021, he and his wife, Katherine Dick, decided to do something for Union students.
Inspired by the College’s participation in the Schuler Access Initiative, John and Kathy gave a significant gift that will help make a Union education affordable for students with high levels of financial need.
“We felt compelled to do this for Union students,” John noted, “because Union was very good for me. I was unable to play sports in school because of a paralized right arm. I joined a fraternity at Union which was very accepting and supportive. For example, I learned to throw overhand.” Learning how to throw a baseball may seem rather ordinary, but it wasn’t for John.
“When I was eight years old, I contracted polio and spent the first ten weeks of my illness in the hospital, but the journey to recovery took years. I missed grades 3, 4 and half of 5 while receiving therapy at home provided primarily by my mother.”
“By the time I returned to school, I was seriously behind with my studies. I made up for it later during high school, but my confidence often faltered. I had no use of my dominant arm, and there was a stigma I carried with me well into my adult life. People back then were not as understanding and accepting of differences as we are more generally today.”
John arrived at Union already aspiring to become a physician. “My father – a family physician and Union graduate, wasn’t encouraging, but he wasn’t discouraging, and when faculty from three different medical schools discouraged my candidacy during my first year at Union, Professor Leonard Clark encouraged me to persevere.”
“‘Well Dick, you might as well try,’ he advised. ‘If you do not make it, at least you will have had a good education.’ Chair of Union’s pre-med program at the time, Professor Clark was a wonderful man and the only person besides my mother who made me feel I could do it. Without his encouragement I do not know if I would have preserved. Union provided me with an excellent education.”
John ultimately attended the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, becoming board certified in internal medicine and critical care and practiced 50 years. He is a third-generation physician - his grandfather was also a family physician.
“The physical and emotional effects of polio linger but with personal grit and support of various people at different times in my life, I feel I have accomplished much and given back to society. Today, polio seems like a tale from a long-ago past, but epidemics change and come when we least expect them. Kathy and I learned that in 2001, when we lost our eldest son, Andrew, who was 26 at the time, to the opioid epidemic.”
Retired from his medical practice since 2018, John now works part-time at a behavioral health clinic in Rutland, Vt. “I treat people battling addiction. Many have opioid use disorder, and many suffer from addiction comorbidities such as anxiety and depression. These folks have children, relationships and jobs and are scared of losing everything. I provide them with care, counsel and compassion. I have learned to admire and respect these individuals.”
“John has really enjoyed this practice in semi-retirement,” Kathy observed. “It gives him great satisfaction and joy to see many of these patients succeed.”
Kathy, a retired nurse, is also finding worthwhile ways to spend her time. “I volunteer with hospice and provide care to friends and family members who need assistance.”
She and John met at the University of Vermont, when she was a nursing student and he was in medical school. Making this gift to Union was important to her too.
“As a first-generation student, it was a big deal for me, and for my family, that I was able to go to UVM. Now, as John and I look back on our lives, we feel it’s important to support students who have not been as privileged as we have been over the years.”
John wrote a brief memoir about his experience with polio and all the love and support he received from his family, friends and care providers. To read this story, please visit this site hosted by John’s medical school alma mater, the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine.