May 5, 2010 – Austin – Kern Wildenthal Receives Honorary Doctorate from Austin College
Approximately 295 members of the Class of 2010 will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees along with 24 Master of Arts in Teaching degree candidates during Austin College Commencement exercises on May 16. At that ceremony, three individuals will receive honorary doctoral degrees in recognition of career achievements and contributions to their communities. Honorary doctorate recipients are Kern Wildenthal commencement speaker and former president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, who will receive the Doctor of Science degree; Joe Clifford, baccalaureate speaker and senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Texas, Doctor of Divinity; and Jay Evans, 1964 alumnus of Austin College who recruited hundreds of students to the College during nearly 40 years with the Office of Admission, Doctor of Humane Letters.
Wildenthal’s 22-year presidency of UT Southwestern Medical Center marked the rise of the Dallas medical center into one of the premiere medical institutions in the world, all while growing and expanding in size, endowment, reputation, and achievement.
Many Austin College graduates have attended the UT Southwestern Medical School. In the past decade alone, 59 graduates have continued studies in medicine, research, and other health professions at UT Southwestern. In general, Austin College’s health sciences graduates enjoy great success, with medical and professional school acceptance rates across the country averaging more than 80 percent.
Although Wildenthal retired in 2008, he works on behalf of the medical school in philanthropic pursuits as president and CEO of the Southwestern Medical Foundation. He also remains on the medical school faculty as a tenured professor of internal medicine and physiology and holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn, Jr., Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.
The former president’s association with the medical school began many years ago when he enrolled in the school at 18. After graduating four years later, he traveled to New York for his internship in New York and returned to UT Southwestern for his residency in internal medicine residency and postdoctoral fellowship in cardiology. He continued study in cardiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and earned a Ph.D. in cell physiology at he University of Cambridge in England.
Wildenthal returned to Dallas to join the faculty of UT Southwestern Medical School as an assistant professor of internal medicine and physiology and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1971. Four years later, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct further research at Cambridge, the same year his Southwestern students voted him outstanding teacher of the year. Returning to UT Southwestern in 1976, he also took on administrative responsibilities, selected to serve as dean of the graduate school.
In 1980, at the age of 38, he was named dean of the medical school, the youngest dean of any American medical school, a distinction he still held when he was named president in 1986.
Upon his retirement, Wildenthal took on roles beyond the medical school. In summer 2008, he became president of the board for the Dallas Opera and, as a founding board member of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, continued work to bring that project to completion. Internationally, he continues to serve on the American advisory board of England’s University of Cambridge, as an honorary fellow of Cambridge’s Hughes Hall, and as a director of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. He also remains active in the International Society for Heart Research, for which he served previously as president of the North American Section.
Austin College Commencement exercises will be held Sunday, May 16, at 8:30 a.m. on the Clyde L. Hall Graduation Court on campus.