An Amazing Human Being
home library that includes many first editions. Among his treasures is a first-edition copy of Snow-Bound signed by John Greenleaf Whittier in 1869. The inscription reads: "Life is ever lord of Death and Love can never lose its own."
Pfefferkorn is a skilled bookbinder, too. Working in his basement repair shop, he has restored the bindings of many of his old books.
He also collects weather data. For the past 25 years, he's kept track of the daily high and low temperatures as well as the atmospheric pressure using an old- fashioned recording barometer that sits in his library.
And every day the weather is nice, he takes a walk around Hanover's Occom Pond, collecting wildflowers as he goes. Once he's back home, he checks his finds in a guidebook and records any new varieties. So far he's up to 153.
He collects fine-art prints as well. His most prized work is a Rembrandt etching—"The Rat Catcher"—that he obtained from a dealer in London for a reasonable price because it was trimmed improperly. "That's how I could afford it," he says. "It always reminds me of the role of the rat in bubonic plague."
Pfefferkorn's dedication to Dartmouth Medical School is as legendary as his teaching and research. He has served on key administrative committees, chaired the Admissions Committee, and chaired the Department of Microbiology.
"Elmer is a team player," says former dean Strickler. He "was someone that I would always turn to for advice and counsel on institutional matters, whether it be academic programs [or] some of the more complex interpersonal matters that we always run into in administration."
In the 1970s, Pfefferkorn was a member
"The Dean's Office cherishes . . . faculty who can look at an institution as an institution and not just at their own niche in the department," says former DMS dean James Strickler. "Elmer was very, very good at this."
of a committee—chaired by Strickler, who was then associate dean—that was charged with looking at DMS's finances. The School was running at a deficit and struggling to dig its way out of a deep fiscal hole. When the committee proposed what Strickler describes as a Draconian plan—which involved cutting the budget, limiting faculty hires, and freezing tenure—Pfefferkorn "rose above departmental and institutional and personal concerns [and] contributed in a very, very intelligent, sensible, team-building way," says Strickler.
Pfefferkorn was also involved in the academic planning for DMS's reinstitution of an M.D. program in the early 1970s and then for the transition froma three-year to a four-year M.D. program in the early 1980s.
"The Dean's Office cherishes . . . faculty who can look at an institution as an institution and not just at their own niche in the department," says Strickler. "Elmer was very, very good at this. He was such an intelligent, respected member of the faculty that what he said counted. When Elmer opined, people listened."
Pfefferkorn's opinion was especially influential on the Admissions Committee. Strickler appointed him chair of the committee when DMS hired its first professional, nonfaculty admissions officer. The dean anticipated getting opposition to the move from some faculty, and Strickler knew that a widely respected faculty member like Pfefferkorn could be relied on to counter it.
Serving on the Admissions Committee, Pfefferkorn admits, "was the only administrative position that I've had in my life which I really enjoyed. In contrast to all the other committees, you have a final product to show at the end of each year. The entering class is indeed a final product upon which the quality of the Medical School is intimately dependent."