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Ferdinand Phinizy Calhoun, Jr.

Retirement Speech


(upon F. Phinizy Calhoun, Jr., M. D.'s retirement from the Emory University School of Medicine)


President Laney, Dr. Hatcher, Dr. Rieser and Dr. Aaberg -- many thanks for your kind remarks. When David told me of his plans for this occasion I welcomed them as an opportunity to publicly thank the many people who have made it possible, but I pleaded with him to emphasize the faculty position and not me. He said, "Don't worry, all you have to do is to stand up and smile!" Since he has betrayed me with all this fine speech and dignitaries, I may get even by threatening him with my long response instead of my short one.

First of all, I would like to express my thanks to the Administration for their wisdom in creating this unique faculty position, regardless of its name, which is one of the most basic of all disciplines in the education of the ophthalmologists of the future and the sophisticated scientific research involved in unravelling the mysteries of eye diseases.

Next, I would like to thank my colleagues, the several foundations, family members and friends who have contributed to this academic project -- many of you probably having only a vague idea of what Ophthalmic Pathology means -- which gives this institution a benefit and advantage held by only one or two other universities in the country. Its significance to the University is clear and I would like to express to you what it means to me personally.


I believe that I owe the audience an explanation of how this all came about and why my name is attached to it. As many of you know I've had a long-standing interest in pathology having spent vacations, holidays and a year after medical school graduation in performing autopsies at Hopkins -- even before my internship or commitment to ophthalmology as a career. When I returned to Atlanta in 1941 the late Dr. Grady Clay, Chairman of the Department at that time obtained funds to establish a small pathology laboratory at the old Grady -- a tremendous goal for me at the time. When we all came back from the War, a larger laboratory was established in the separate building of the Grady Clay Memorial Eye Clinic in 1947 and one of my prized possessions is a letter from Boisfeullet appointing me Director of the Laboratory. In 1954 the laboratory was established in the Eye Clinic area of the new Grady. In the succeeding years, with a budget only for a technician, the voluntary teaching and service continued in this laboratory, amongst forces which would take it away from ophthalmology.

When this magnificent building you are now in was built in 1982, the Administration again showed its wisdom in including a state-of-the-art laboratory and sophisticated equipment designed for the future -- a place beyond by fondest dreams.


And now we come to the present. With the modern explosion of scientific and clinical knowledge and technology, voluntary part-time staffing was insufficient to make use of this jewel in the eye department -- so what was Dr. Aaberg to do?

I'm reminded of one of my father's stories told by his grandfather and passed down through the generations of Drs. Calhoun. It seems that great-grandfather A.B. Calhoun was serving on the State Board of Medical Examiners in about 1850 and the Board was examining one of the young candidates for licensure. The examination was in Obstetrics and finally an examiner asked the candidate the ultimate question -- "What do a doctor do when he are in a tight?" To this very important question about a serious emergency situation, the young candidate immediately and proudly replied -- " Why, I would call in a good doctor." The answer seemed to satisfy the Board and they granted him his license.


Well, this is what Dr. Aaberg did - he called in a good doctor, in the form of the Dr. Hans Grossniklaus, a former clinical ophthalmologist, and highly qualified general and ophthalmic pathologist, and now Dr. Aaberg has the brain and the leadership he needed for this service.

This is what your generous contributions have helped to support, and I am greatly honored to have my name connected with it. You see, my baby is safe and thriving and is at last in good hands.

My dream of over fifty years to put ophthalmic pathology at Emory on a sound footing for the education of young ophthalmologists, for service to the clinicians, and for the elucidation of the complex diseases which destroy vision, has been finally realized by fondest expectation and dreams, thanks to you, and to have this academic post named after me is the highest honor I could ever imagine. Thank you all again.

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