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There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world.
It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.
—Poet Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)
In memoriam: Dr. Peter Williamson
By Kate Villars
Dr. Peter Williamson not only believed passionately in the excellence of medicine at Dartmouth, but he was a man who walked his talk. Williamson, who died of cancer in June, made a lasting impact at Dartmouth and beyond through his medical career, his leadership, his philanthropy, and his indomitable spirit.
For over 30 years, Williamson's vision, commitment, and energy were felt broadly across the medical community. A 1958 Dartmouth College graduate, he was a world-renowned neurologist and epilepsy expert, a founding member and chair of the Dartmouth Medical School Board of Overseers, and a professor of medicine at DMS.
Williamson returned to Dartmouth in 1991 at the invitation of Dr. Alexander Reeves to found the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at DHMC. Under Williamson's direction, the program earned National Institutes of Health designation as one of the nation's top epilepsy referral centers.
"Peter was a bright, motivated person," recalls Reeves."In anything he did, he had a very strong drive to be good at it. He was the kind of person you could always count on."
Williamson was also tireless in his efforts to garner philanthropic support for DMS and DHMC, noting that "philanthropy is critically important to our ability to continue to expand our knowledge and ability to care for our patients."
As chair of the Transforming Medicine Campaign, Williamson had led the Campaign since its start in 2002, bringing it at the time of his death to within $44 million of its $250-million goal. Last fall, he and his wife, Susan, spurred the
Campaign's already strong momentum with a $20-million gift commitment, the largest ever to DMS or DHMC. In recognition of their extraordinary generosity, the translational research building in the future C. Everett Koop Medical Science Complex will be named in their honor.
"We sincerely appreciate Peter's passionate devotion to Dartmouth medicine," says Dr. William Green, dean of DMS. "I'm grateful for his hand in shaping the Medical School and for everything he and his wife, Susan, have done to strengthen our future."
Williamson's interests and community service extended far beyond medicine. An active member of his Dartmouth class, he also served on numerous boards,
including those of the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vt.; the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vt.; and the Experimental Aircraft Association, an international organization of aviation enthusiasts. He was also a well-known collector of vintage Bugatti automobiles.
Williamson is survived by his wife, Susan, and their four children—Debbie Williamson, DC '81; Karen Cushnie; Kyle Williamson; and Dr. Doug Williamson, DC '85 and DMS '93—and six grandchildren.
"The medical community has lost a faithful advocate, and Dartmouth has lost a loyal friend," notes Dartmouth College President James Wright. "Through his work and because of his philanthropy, Peter's Dartmouth medicine legacy will continue for generations. We will all miss him."
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Kate Villars is assistant director of development communications for DMS-DHMC