Westminster ’73 Graduates become Medical Marvels
Reposted article by Sarah Backer with Westminster College
Although the Counterculture Movement, an Animal House atmosphere, and streaking often dominated college campuses in the early 1970s, Westminster College achieved an unusual distinction during that time. Seven close-knit Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers from Westminster’s Class of 1973 all graduated from medical school and are physicians today. Drs. Ted Garrett, Dale Henselmeier, Randall Huss, Steven Mellies, Robert Huster, Jon Jenkins, and Franz “Jay” Wippold recently took time off from their busy schedules to discuss their medical careers and Westminster memories, which include water balloon pranks and a missed Elton John concert.
How the Group of Seven Formed
The Group of Seven all majored in biology — some also with a double major in chemistry — and were keenly aware as students that the others were eyeing medical school. During the early 1970s, the KA house maintained a stellar academic reputation, and the pre-med KAs studied around the clock, competing for top grades but also supporting one another. “Because we had the same major, we were together in many, many classes,” explains Jenkins. “Our small pre-med group spent many nights and some entire weekends in the library studying for exams.”
Known affectionately with one another as the “Book Jocks,” medical school was one of the main topics of conversation among the Group during all four years at Westminster. “We compared notes and worked toward a common goal for us all,” Wippold recalls.
Another Strange Connection
Oddly enough, more than half of the Group of Seven attended grade school, junior high, and high school together in Hazelwood, MO, graduating from Hazelwood Central High School in 1969: Garrett, Henselmeier, Huss, and Mellies, who is the fourth generation in his father’s family to become a physician. “Even then, we used to study together on Friday nights in our high school Comparative Anatomy Lab,” Mellies recalls.
Even stranger? Huster and Wippold attended the same grade school and high school — Salem Lutheran Grade School and Lutheran High School South in St. Louis, MO. Jenkins maintains a sense of humor about being the oddball out. He remarks that he didn’t know any of the Group prior to attending college and says his mother is solely responsible for his presence at Westminster. She filled out his application and later made him apply to Harvard Medical School. “I’m sure when accepted I was some quota representing either Missouri or the Midwest,” he jokes.
The One That Got Away
As far as Group of Seven outliers are concerned, they all recall with playful banter that close pal Ray Strangehoener, who also graduated in 1969 from Hazelwood Central High, holds black sheep status among the Group. Strangehoener roomed with Henselmeier and hung out with all of the physicians-to-be but is the only one to set foot on a different career path, becoming an attorney and then a banker. “Somehow we let him get away from medicine,” Garrett says with a chuckle.
Henselmeier adds that even the faculty tried to encourage Strangehoener to change majors. “I can remember Warry Williams giving him a hard time for not switching to pre-med,” Henselmeier says. “But I think Ray made the right choice.”
As for their decision to go into the medical field, the Group all mention faculty as highly influential, citing substantial assignments and challenging exams as preparation for medical school. Favorite faculty members included Drs. Warry Williams – advisor to most of the pre-med group – Charles Brauer, Doug Fickess, Christian Hauer, Howard Hind, and John Schultz, all of whom kept the Group on their toes. “When we studied, we would ask one another what, for example, Dr. Williams or Dr. Fickess would ask on the upcoming test,” Huss says.
Coffee Runs and Snowfalls
If late-night study sessions were the norm, then frequent coffee runs were paramount. “We used to stop by the College Inn for coffee on the way to the Science Center to study, and then we’d take a break around 10 p.m. or so for more coffee,” says Huster. “Then we would go back to the Science Center until 11 p.m. or later to finish the evening studying,” he says.
And although Garrett remembers the coffee runs, he says his favorite memory is much more current. “My favorite memory actually occurred years later, when my son, Carter, joined the KA fraternity, and I was asked to perform the induction ceremony,” Garrett recalls.
Unlike the others, Wippold has a visual memory of the peacefulness of the College in the wintertime. “My favorite memory is the campus in the evening after a fresh snow fall,” he says.
Pranks and Parties
Other Group of Seven memories include pranks and parties. The Group recalls the Westminster social atmosphere as relatively tame in the 1970s compared to some colleges at the time. Silly pranks, however, were common. Huss says practical jokes often helped the Group relax and blow off steam. “The ‘turkey jerky prank,’ at the expense of one of us, was certainly memorable,” Huss says. “I suspect the guilty will recall it.”
He adds that one particular prank involved obtaining stretchable surgical tubing from the Science Center and a plastic bucket. Once assembled and operated by three KAs, the apparatus became a giant sling shot that launched water balloons toward the Beta Theta Pi house across the street. “Once we even managed to get one through an open window … they were not impressed,” Huss says.
When not pulling fraternity pranks, the Group can remember attending a number of parties at the KA house and other fraternities on campus. “When I was in med school, I wondered if the social life at Westminster was lacking, compared to those of other larger universities,” Henselmeier says, “I compared notes with some of my classmates, and I think we had a much better social life at Westminster than the majority of my med school classmates had at their undergrad schools.”
Elton John and Reeves Library
Despite the occasional prank and party, the Group of Seven were mostly nose to the grindstone, even when significant events took place on campus. One such event was a certain performance in 1970 by a now-famous singer in Champ Auditorium. “One of my least favorite memories is totally missing the Elton John concert, when he performed with his band,” Jenkins says. “He was essentially unknown, and I don’t think any of us had really heard much about him. We were probably in the library, anyway.”
Today the Group of Seven can claim their close friendship, challenging faculty, serious study, and perhaps even Elton John for their Kappa Alpha class of 1973 medical school miracle.
Ted Garrett, MD
Retired in St. Louis, MO, from Cardiothoracic Surgery
Vanderbilt School of Medicine, 1977; Residency in General Surgery, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University, 1977-1982; Fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery , Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University, 1982-1984
Children: Kristen and R. Carter ’10
Hobbies: Golfing, duck hunting, playing Bridge, and traveling with Gayle
Dale Henselmeier, MD
Practices Family Medicine at SSM Health Medical Group in St. Louis, MO
Saint Louis University Medical School, 1977
Residence in Family Medicine, St. John’s Mercy
Spouse: Karen, WWU ’74
Children: Laura, Emily ’08 (Adam Harrow ’09), and John
Grandchildren: Henry and Silas
Hobbies: Hiking with his dog, Trixie; golfing; snow skiing; scuba diving; and traveling
Randall Huss, MD
Practices Geriatrics and Post-Acute/Long-Term Care Medicine at Mercy Clinic, Rolla, MO
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 1977
Family Medicine Residency, University of Florida, Gainesville
Board Certified in Family Medicine with Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine
Children: Kristen and Katy
Hobbies: Fly fishing on the North Fork River, home brewing craft beers, and traveling
Robert Huster, MD
Practices Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Obesity Medicine at Liberty Hospital in Liberty, MO
University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, 1978
Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, MU Hospital and Clinics, 1978-1982
Diplomate American Board of Bariatric Medicine, 1996; Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine, 2011
Spouse: Marguerite “Jan”
Children: Scott, Elizabeth, and Collin
Grandchildren: Cohen, Sawyer, and Elise
Hobbies: Formerly an avid Boy Scout leader, spending time with grandchildren, fishing, and gardening
Jon Jenkins, MD
Retired in Concord, MA, from Emergency Medicine and his company, LogixHealth
Harvard Medical School, 1977
Residency in Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, with Board Certification in Internal and Emergency Medicine
Published and edited the Little Brown Spiral Seriesl Manual: Emergency Medicine, Diagnosis and Treatment, Editions 1-6, and co-founded LogixHealth
Children: Ann, John Michael, and Elle
Hobbies: Tennis, golf, volunteer cook at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lawrence, MA
Steven Mellies, DO
Retired in Cape Girardeau, MO, from Neurology
Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine, 1977
Neurology Residency, St. Louis University Hospitals, 1978-1981
Grandchildren: Zachary, Christian, and Hannah
Franz “Jay” Wippold, MD
Emeritus Professor of Radiology, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, St. Louis, MO; Adjunct Professor of Radiology, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Bethesda, MD
MD, St. Louis University School of Medicine, 1977
Radiology Residency, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1979-1982; Neuroradiology Fellowship, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology,
Spouse: Carol Ann Krentz
Children: Rachel, Aaron, and Rebecca
Hobbies: Model railroading and bird watching