The Last Word

By Brucker '53
& Dorfman '00


Paul C. Brucker, M.D. '53

By Paul C. Brucker, M.D. ’53

Muhlenberg has been and continues to be a very special, liberal arts college. Fifty-five years ago, when I entered as a freshman, the campus was very different than it is today. Yet some of the core values and mission remain unchanged. Classes remain small, the institution continues to attract exceptional, well-trained faculty, and there is a great deal of personal attention and support paid to all the students. The College continues to be able to train individuals for various careers and, at the same time, embody the student with an appreciation of the liberal arts. There were and are a great number of opportunities for leadership and scholarship. Fortunately, I had a focus on medicine, and that was not an issue I had to decide. But, for many of the students, the four-year experience allowed them to discover their interest and talent. The relatively broad curriculum, coupled with personal counseling, allowed them the opportunity to prepare for many fields. When I entered the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, I realized how well prepared I was. To this day, I am grateful that Muhlenberg made me want to be a perpetual student.

In the fifties, we had many different age groups, for many who served in the armed forces were attending the College on a G.I. bill or scholarship. Unfortunately, the College was not co-ed at the time. The age diversity was a valuable experience—particularly when I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a proctor and a students teacher. There is no better way to learn organic chemistry than to teach it twice a week. Even then, it was in a problem-solving mode, rather than a didactic mode. As Dr. Smart, the professor of organic chemistry, said, “Organic Chemistry separated out the real pre-meds.” That remains true today. Interacting as a proctor with fellow students was a wonderful experience that introduced me to teaching and led to many enduring friendships. I sit back and wonder how different such an experience might be today with Power Point, electronic mail and electronic access to the library. No matter how much the paradigm of teaching changes, personal contact and interaction will remain invaluable.

I never thought, in the fifties, that the College’s physical plant could or would change so dramatically—new library, dorms, sports center, center for the arts, student union, educational buildings. Many times when I am on campus, I entertain the thought of how much fun it would be to start all over again and utilize all these beautiful facilities—and, at the same time, again be exposed to the liberal arts taught in an intimate environment taught by excellent faculty.

I’m very grateful to Muhlenberg for the preparation I received for a career in teaching and medicine. I have many fond memories of the fifties, of an honorary degree from Muhlenberg in 1991 and now the opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees for 10 years. It’s gratifying to watch the College grow in a very exciting, constructive manner. Muhlenberg really is a gem in higher education.

Dr. Brucker, a member of the class of 1953, is President Emeritus of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pa. He also serves as a clinical professor in their department of medicine and as a professor in their department of family medicine. He received an honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Muhlenberg in 1991 and the Alumni Achievement Award in 2003.

   


Aaron T. Dorfman, M.D. '00

By Aaron T. Dorfman, M.D. ’00

As a senior in high school, my first impression of Muhlenberg was its aesthetic beauty and its unique character. Complete strangers passed by on Academic Row and smiled at me. Students and faculty were very proud of their institution and each other. Everyone just seemed so happy. While I had come to see this small liberal arts school for its reputation of having a strong pre-medical education, I left overwhelmed by its persona and beauty. Choosing Muhlenberg was an easy decision, and it has changed my personal and professional life. In just four short years, I was able to acquire a top-notch education, prepare for my future career and enjoy an unforgettable “college” experience.

The sciences at Muhlenberg have a tradition of excellence. The chemistry, biology and physics departments set very high standards for both the factual knowledge and underlying principles that they teach. Professors set lofty goals and then support students to supercede these expectations. Outside of the classroom, professors take their own time to personally answer students’ questions and mentor research projects. I was fortunate enough to spend over two years working with Dr. Charles Russell of the chemistry department on a project that taught me a lot about organic chemistry and even more about the reality of scientific research. In addition, Muhlenberg’s liberal arts requirements forced me to branch out and explore other disciplines, including: the history of modern mathematics, sculpture, religions of India and South African history. Many of these classes ended up being some of my favorite experiences at Muhlenberg.

In the broadest of terms, the purpose of an undergraduate institution is to prepare its graduates for the world beyond and position them to succeed. My goal, for as long as I can remember, was to train to become a pediatrician at the best children’s hospital in the country, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I truly believe that I would not be living that dream now if I had attended another institution. In addition to the excellent education, the extracurricular experiences and leadership opportunities that I enjoyed so much were the factors that set me apart from other medical school applicants. Through those roles, I was able to build strong professional relationships with many faculty and administrators whose overwhelming support helped me earn acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. There I realized that Muhlenberg’s scientific education is on par with every Ivy League institution; yet the caring atmosphere and personal attention are matched by none.

In all, I am grateful to Muhlenberg for many things. While some can be measured in degrees and accomplishments, the most important ones cannot. In four years at Muhlenberg, I have so many fond memories and made so many lifelong friends. When I think back to the social gatherings, late night conversations and special events - I smile. It was truly an unforgettable experience. Finally, I am eternally thankful for the opportunity to meet my beautiful wife, Julie, on Muhlenberg’s magnificent campus. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Dr. Dorfman, a member of the class of 2000, is a resident in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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