In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum

In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum


In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum (D & C)

July 31, 2015

If anyone – told to me by many – knows the story behind the signed and inscribed photograph of Julie Andrews displayed in the George Hoyt Whipple Museum, it is Dr. Ruth Lawrence, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

Dr. Whipple’s original hand broom [Photo: David Kramer]

Ruth – not yet ninety one as she likes to say – came to the University of Rochester in 1945 as a medical student and pretty much never left. During UR’s Melioria Weekend in the Fall, Ruth usually gives the once-a-year tour when the doors of the Whipple Museum are unlocked to the public.

Tucked away near the Miner Library in the URMC, the Museum is named for George Hoyt Whipple (1878-1976), the founding dean of the UR School of Medicine & Dentistry, and a Nobel prize winner (1934).  Whipple Park, Whipple Auditorium, and the the George H. Whipple Lab for Cancer Research are also named in his honor. Whipple retired as dean and chairman of pathology in 1953, but retained an office in the school of medicine building. When Whipple died in 1976, the decision was made to keep this office exactly as it was. It remains today largely as it was in 1976, although some additional material from the archives has accumulated over the years.

Dr. Whipple’s original hat and lab coat [Photo: David Kramer]

And that picture of Julie Andrews?

Christopher Hoolihan, Head of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Miner Library, provided the limited background information he had:

You noticed a photograph of Julie Andrews on Dr. Whipple’s desk. It was sent to him by Julie Andrews on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Dr. Whipple was an admirer of Julie Andrews as a film actress. Some years before Ms. Andrews had supplanted Ingrid Bergman as Dr. Whipple’s favorite female film star. Dr. Whipple abandoned Ms. Bergman after she abandoned her husband and their daughter to have an affair with the Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, with whom she had a daughter (out of wedlock), Bergman later divorced her husband and married Rosselini.

The Bergman reference is intriguing as local film buffs know of her connection to Rochester. As described by Chris:

Ingrid Bergman’s first husband was Petter Lindstrom, M.D. (d. 2000). A dentist, he had married Bergman in Stockholm. They came to the United States in 1940. Lindstrom entered the UR School of Medicine, from which he graduated in 1943 (during the Second World War there was an accelerated program for medical students). Lindstrom and Begman had an apartment on South Avenue in a house where is now the James P. B. Duffy School. Her film career took Bergman elsewhere for periods of time, but she returned to Rochester often.

Meredith Gozo, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts of the History of Medicine Collection with photograph of Peta Lindstrom and Ingrid Bergman and daughter Pia when Lindstrom was a UR medical student in the 1940’s. Photograph caption: ’42 – ’43 Peta – Ingrid – Pia [Photo: David Kramer from Black History Month at the Corner ]

It is unknown if Whipple socialized with the Lindstroms when they lived in Rochester.

To learn more about these long gone affairs of the heart and mild infatuations with starlets, meeting Ruth in her office – a woman of extraordinary vitality who says she feels 60 and I believe it – I was greeted with the same warm humor no doubt experienced by thousands of her patients.

However, although she knew Whipple for decades, I was in for a surprise. When I showed her the photograph signed for his 90th birthday, it was the first time she has heard about or seen it!

Dr. Ruth Lawrence in the Miner Library [Photo: David Kramer]

Ruth’s first laughing response was, “Why wasn’t I invited to that party?”  In all the time she knew Whipple, he had never once mentioned Ingrid Bergman or Julie Andrews. Given his austere nature, Ruth found it hard to imagine Whipple even going to the movies.

In describing Whipple, Ruth drew a portrait of a man defined by his devotion to science and his exceedingly proper decorum. She says Whipple believed that medical students, male and female, should not be married if not even date. Those who did tried their best to conceal. Ruth was hardly surprised that Whipple had rejected Bergman on the grounds of her adultery. Julie Andrews was clearly a better choice for his affection.

At the same time, Ruth has nothing but admiration for Whipple’s achievements and for the lives his discoveries saved and improved. She describes the Museum as a kind of “sacred burial ground,” whose survival over the years, “as science as grown up around it” is testament to Whipple’s good works.

Come by Meliora Weekend and take Dr. Ruth Lawrence’s tour of URMC facility that includes the Museum and other interesting aspects.

Gaze yourselves upon the portrait of a lady, Julie Andrews.  Even Nobel prize winning scientists have their occasional – if a little secret – fantasies.

UPDATE: see A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49. And still on the active faculty.

A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49. And still on the active faculty.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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