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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

Commencement speaker M. Roy Schwarz '59 shares experience and success with friends

M. Roy Schwarz
M. Roy Schwarz

By Noreen Hobson '99

During his first week at PLU, away from his 800-person Idaho hometown, M. Roy Schwarz '59 saw a professor writing free-form on the chalkboard and speaking enthusiastically about zoology, a subject Schwarz didn't even know existed. He found another professor teaching history without notes, personally engaging his students.

"PLU really changed my life," said Schwarz, this year's commencement speaker.

While at PLU, he wasn't sure that his grades were good enough, or that he would be able to excel in medical school, but Schwarz was compelled by medicine. He wanted to practice and teach it, and a professor told him he could achieve anything. So he did.

After earning his degree at PLU, Schwarz went on to earn his M.D. from the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is now president of the China Medical Board of New York, a private foundation established to promote high quality, Western medicine in China and elsewhere in the world. The board has programs in China, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Mongolia and Nepal. Schwarz holds professorships at the universities of Washington, California/San Diego, and Illinois. Dr. Schwarz initiated and is founding director the WAMI (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Program at the University of Washington, which provides medical education to three states that have no medical school.

During his May 26 commencement address, "China: The Dragon Awakes," Schwarz referred to Chinese proverbs and spoke about his knowledge as a scholar, his commitment as a physician and his caring as a person. It was a lesson for the 575 graduates about the relationship between China and the U.S. and how much there is to be learned. "China today is not the China of tomorrow or next week. China is going through monumental change," he said.

Schwarz was named an outstanding alumnus in 1969, a distinguished alumnus in 1979 and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at commencement for his contributions to global health. He returns to PLU frequently, and the university remains an important part of his life. He describes his experiences and longstanding PLU relationships as "precious memories and precious people." He has stayed involved with many alumni activities and served on the Board of Regents. "The values and things that PLU stands for are the values that I've decided to stand for."

Schwarz says it's important to give credit to the people who have shaped his life, and he never forgets people he has seen give of themselves. In that vein, Schwarz dedicated his address to close friends from PLU who passed away this year: Phyllis Babcock '56, Ellen Garrity '56 and Eugene Strandness '50 -people he says "enriched my life immensely."


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