During last fall’s 50th Anniversary celebration for 1968-69 UofL graduates, Dr. Donald Shoemaker and Cathy Shoemaker visited the Belknap campus for the first time in almost as many years.
“It was amazing, completely different,” said Don. “We couldn’t believe how things have changed.”
Don admits that over the years he had been immersed in his medical practice as an anesthesiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville and hadn’t kept up with the growing campus. “I went to med school in 1968 and hadn’t seen it since and the whole time the campus was growing. My goodness. The way it expanded was amazing.”
UofL Archivist and Historian Tom Owen led the couple on a lengthy tour of the campus, fielding questions about buildings and settings both familiar and unfamiliar. Owen is well-known for leading Belknap History Walking Tours throughout the year where he plays raconteur and tour guide for groups of faculty, staff, students and Louisville residents.
“He took us out to the new music school, where it was all older houses when I was in school,” said Donald, referring to the building built in 1980 which now contains the School of Music, Comstock Hall and Music Library. “There are three old buildings nearby and I used to take Poli-Sci, English and other classes there.” Facing north, “there was a stone wall, a parking lot and a pizza place” that once lined the now long-gone Shipp Street.
“On the south side of the campus I remember the Purina silos that they tore down. They moved the observatory and other buildings, just pushed them back.”
Cathy, who earned a master’s degree in social work, said that back in the day, “Kent School was in a large yellow brick house near the old Confederate statue. I took a statistics course in the garage.”
The couple were also impressed with the Foucault pendulum clock installed on the ground floor of Grawemeyer Hall in 1978. “The ground level, where you now see the pendulum, was the finance office where we would drop off our tuition checks.”
Don remembers the main library in Schneider Hall – now the site of Fine Arts and the Bridwell Art Library – to study between classes and before fraternity events. He remembers the long fountain on the building’s east side was occasionally visited by soap bubbles as pranking students poured in laundry detergent.
“As a science major, I had all my classes in one building, the natural sciences building by Eastern Parkway. Now all the sciences have their own buildings. I’d just wait in the Natural Sciences library before classes.
“I’d be walking my legs off now, but probably I’d be in better shape.”
Since graduating from UofL, the couple has been busy with careers and raising a family of three daughters. Their eldest daughter also has strong UofL ties: Amy Shoemaker is the Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Deputy University Counsel. Lisa Borden, their middle daughter is a UofL medical school graduate and pediatrician in Middletown, and youngest Kristin Shoemaker is a commercial airline pilot, living in Charlotte North Carolina.
Cathy and Don were born and raised in Louisville and graduated in 1964 from local high schools, Cathy from Presentation Academy and Don from Seneca High School. Don’s fellow Seneca High School alum was Wes Unseld, the former UofL Cardinal basketball star who played for the Baltimore Bullets and was named NBA Most Valuable Player among other accolades. Unseld passed away on June 2, 2020.
“He helped our team win the Kentucky HS championship in our junior and senior years. We both went on to UofL; I went into med school and he went to Baltimore and had an NBA hall of fame basketball career.”
“He was a good, good guy. It was just a shock that he passed away. I saw him six years ago at the 50th HS reunion. We weren’t close personal friends, but we all rooted for him and I was proud of his talent.”
Cathy earned a master of science in social work from the Kent school. “First I went to Spaulding University and then I was a student at Kent School but I owed the state two years of work because they paid for my tuition,” she said. “I worked in Frankfort, teaching social workers how to lead therapy groups for families with dependent children.” She then worked as a clinical social worker for River Region (later Centerstone), and then after starting her family, she worked part-time for Seven County Services.
After Don earned a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Sciences, he entered the UofL Medical School and completed his residency at UofL Hospital. He served in the Air Force for two years in Omaha, Nebraska and then moved back to Louisville.
Cathy tells the story of how the couple met in 1970 at the old Louisville General Hospital – in the Psych ward, she says, laughing – while both were on rotation there. Cathy was working on her social work degree and Don was a medical student on rotation.
After they married, Cathy began working for the state of Kentucky, traveling all over the state to conduct trainings. At the same time, Don’s residency meant he worked overnight every third day.
“We used to joke that our marriage will last much longer than anyone else’s because we just hadn’t seen each other as much,” said Cathy.
In his long career – he retired in 2013 – Don has seen many changes in healthcare and in the world of anesthesia.
“Back in 1977, it was mostly MDs providing anesthesia, but now we need CRNAs, nurse anesthetists to staff all the areas where anesthesia is needed. Back in 1977, we had six ORs. Now there are close to 30, and they need anesthesia services in the endoscopy suites and delivery rooms, radiology, etc. Even in outpatient centers.”
“But during this COVID 19 crisis, I think people have changed the way they view anesthesiologists,” he continued. “They are heroes. They have to put people on ventilators, intubate them and keep them alive, keep their airways open as they battle the virus.”
Change has not only struck the healthcare profession, but also higher education and in particular, the University over the past 14 years of daughter Amy’s tenure. But though UofL had experienced some challenging times, Cathy and Don both expressed their enthusiasm for President Neeli Bendapudi and Athletic Director Vince Tyra.
“We have been very impressed with Neeli as a leader,” said Cathy. “She has been a stabilizing force and done a great job of turning things around.”
“We can’t say enough about her leadership. She’s personable, smart, and so energetic.”
by Kathie Johnson, Associate Professor
Kathie Johnson is an Associate Professor and the Curator of History Collections for Kornhauser Health Sciences Library.
As curator of the History Collections at Kornhauser Health Sciences Library I have a variety of duties, one of which is assisting researchers doing family history. Most of the research questions that I receive are genealogical in nature. Patrons want to verify that an ancestor attended and/or graduated from medical school in Louisville; or they have that information and want a copy of a diploma, a photograph, or information about medical education during that student’s time here.
Although the University of Louisville traces its roots to 1798, in reality it became an active and on-going educational institution in 1837, with the founding of the Louisville Medical Institute (LMI), which in 1846 became the Medical Department of the newly formed University of Louisville. By the end of the 19th century, Louisville had become a center of medical education with seven medical schools, but by the early 1900s, in response to pressure to improve medical education, four of the schools had been absorbed by the UofL Medical Department. Their alumni were officially listed as alumni of ULMD, and any records that still remained from the schools went to the combined ULMD and Jefferson County Medical Society Library, which is now the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library. The other two schools were closed by 1912.
One of the tools I have available to track alumni is a database that includes most of the medical students who attended LMI/UofL or the schools that were absorbed by UofL from 1837-1908. This database is also available on-line from the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library web page. While it is a simple matter to search this list for an individual name, there can be some challenges involved. Many of these names were transcribed from hand-written ledger books, some with almost illegible handwriting, and the spelling of names sometimes varies. Many of the students are listed with initials only, so common sir names may prove to be troublesome. Second, this list is massive, containing over 30,000 names, so as with any project this magnitude, a few names got omitted. An entry in the database only indicates attendance, not graduation, so follow-up in school records is needed.
All inquiries are written up on an “Information Request Form.” When the work is done, one copy is saved for tallying statistics, while a second is filed alphabetically by the name of the subject of the inquiry. If the research has already been done for a particular individual, that sheet may answer the entire question, thus this is the next step in my search. We also maintain extensive biographical reference files as part of the History Collections and a quick check there for a name is part of the process. These files may contain photographs, articles by or about a person, obituaries, CVs, and lists of publications among other things.
My search in not over after checking the above sources. Some very helpful tools are the various kinds of medical directories we have on hand. For doctors who could have died before 1929, I check the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929, which contains short biographical entries on most 19th century doctors. Next I go to the national medical directories, which in our collections date from 1878, and were published regularly from 1886 to the present. Entries may include location of practice, school and year of graduation, specialty, and occasionally additional details. Having over a century’s run of directories helps in tracking these individuals. If the database listing or any directory entries indicates that the person in question graduated from one of the Louisville medical schools, I can then check the school’s catalog.
Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, the catalogs listed not only the history of the school, the curriculum, the faculty, and the fees; it included the listing of the previous year’s students and graduates. The earliest ones also list the name of the students’ preceptor (or sponsor), their thesis titles, and their home state, or some combination of those three items. We hold a fairly complete run of catalogs for UofL and the schools absorbed by UofL along with some official alumni lists compiled periodically.
Many people also want to know about the courses offered in medical school, the length of the program, and other such information, which can easily be provided. The 19th and some of the 20th century catalogs are digitized and available in our Digital Collections, http://digital.library.louisville.edu/collections/kornhauser/ . There one can learn that well into the 20th century a college degree was not required for admission to medical school, or that for most of the 19th century, medical training only consisted of two four-month sessions.
We also house a collection of ledger books from the various schools, dating to 1880 for some, and beginning in 1908 for UofL. These may provide very little information or may include home addresses, names of preceptors, previous education, and even grades. It is a thrill to find a person’s name in a ledger, in 19th century script, especially if detailed information is also included.
If the person in question practiced in Kentucky prior to 1940 another source is the WPA files. One project of the Works Progress Administration during The New Deal in the late 1930s was the employment of writers to document the history of certain aspects of life and then produce a published work with this research. One of the Kentucky projects was to document the history of medicine. Writers traveled the state transcribing newspaper articles, obituaries and other written documents. This was all combined and indexed for easy searching.
Each time I receive an inquiry, it is a puzzle, a scavenger hunt, and a lot of fun. On top of that, I get paid to do this, making it even better. As mentioned in an earlier blog – I love my job!!!