LOYOLA FACULTY MEMBER OF THE YEAR
Walter M. Jay, M.D.
Faculty Convocation - September 12, 2010
According to the Faculty Council web site, the first recipient of the Faculty Member of the Year was Vincent Herr, S. J., in 1967. I enrolled at Loyola the following year as an undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences at the Lake Shore Campus. During the summer, the new students were invited to campus for a day of orientation and to schedule classes. I was the first in my family to attend college and I must admit the process seemed somewhat intimidating. At the end of the day, I was heading back to my car, probably appearing a bit bewildered and overwhelmed. The dean of the College of Arts and Science saw me and talked with me for 15 minutes or so. He looked over my schedule and made me feel at home. This was a small gesture, but it had a great impact on me, so much so that I remember the event vividly over forty years later.
A few years ago, I was examining young ophthalmologists for certification for the American Board of Ophthalmology. During the lunch break, a balding middle-aged fellow examiner came up and introduced himself to me. He turned out to be a former student and resident. We had not stayed in touch, nor spoken for over twenty-five years. The doctor presently had a successful and rewarding ophthalmology practice. He thanked me profusely for advising him and helping him to obtain a position in a coveted ophthalmology residency. The doctor stated if it was not for me, he would not have entered the field of ophthalmology.
Awhile ago, I received the following letter:
Dear Dr. Jay:
I am writing this letter to who I hope is the correct Dr. Walter Jay. I did an Internet search, and found your picture here. I do hope that you receive this letter.
I am writing to thank you. I cannot thank you enough for changing my life the way you did over twenty years ago. I know that there is no way that you could specifically remember me; however, you are one person in my life that I will never ever forget.
I had a very advanced case of Graves’s disease, with exophthalmos. I had undergone some reconstructive surgery to have some lids made and was, honestly, on the verge of being suicidal. You met me that day and assured me that you would do everything you could to help me and make me better. And you did. You went over several options with me at that time; we mutually elected to have the muscle surgery in my eyes to correct the double vision. I had convinced myself that I was going blind. You were so reassuring and supportive to me during all of those days.
Not only did your extraordinary skill as a physician make me physically better, but it, along with your bedside manners, helped me so much to live a normal life again.
I hope that life has brought to you many blessings, Dr. Jay, as you have brought them to so many people.
Once again, I just wanted to thank you.
God bless you.
The three stories of the dean speaking with me on orientation day, my former student thanking me at a lunch break at the Ophthalmology Board Examination, and the letter from my former patient share a common thread. As faculty, we have tremendous impact on our students’ lives and, for the physician faculty, on our patients’ lives. During the daily trials and tribulations of academic endeavors, it is easy to lose sight of our profound influence. We often are not aware of the impact we have until many years later. Moments like today allow us all to reflect on this great privilege to influence our student’s futures and for the physician faculty, our patients’ well-being.
My first year at Loyola was 1968, the year Mertz Hall opened. Unfortunately or fortunately, it was not completed on schedule. This resulted in Loyola leasing the once glamorous Edgewater Beach Hotel as a dormitory. During its lifetime, the Edgewater Beach Hotel served many famous guests, including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, and U.S. presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The hotel was known for hosting big bands such as those of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. By the time Loyola students arrived, the Edgewater Beach Hotel had seen better days. By November 1968, Mertz was completed and we had moved onto campus. Following our departure, the once-great hotel was torn down and replaced with a condominium high rise. It was, however, a unique experience for me and my fellow Loyola students to be both the last residents of the Edgewater Beach Hotel and the first residents of Mertz Hall.
I would be remiss not to mention the most momentous event of my time as a student at Loyola. During the first week on campus in 1968, while on my way to a folk music concert, I met the woman who would become my wife. Sue, who is here with me today, was also beginning her studies, and we have now been married for over 37 years. Since 1968, we have journeyed far and wide, but today find ourselves within a few blocks from where we first met.
It is a tremendous honor and privilege to receive the Faculty Member of the Year Award. I am very gratified to have my name included along with the other recipients, a number of which were my teachers.
Let me end my presentation by again quoting from the letter my patient sent me:
“I hope that life has brought to you many blessings, Dr. Jay, as you have brought them to so many people.”
Receiving the Faculty Member of the Year Award from my alma mater, Loyola University Chicago, is clearly a great blessing and I am very grateful for this honor bestowed on me.