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An Amazing Human Being

The effort to recruit more women and minority students to DMS also owes a lot to Pfefferkorn. In fact, the year after the decision was made to increase the number of women, "Dartmouth Medical School had the second highest percentage of women in the entering class of any medical school" in the U.S., says Strickler. Only the still-all-female Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania had more. "Elmer was key to this. And he was also very, very positive about getting more minorities into medical school."

"Our goal . . . was to get the best and most diverse class we could," says Pfefferkorn. "We had our successes—and some failures, but I think the successes outnumbered the failures. It was a very cooperative and interactive committee."

He found the applicants inspiring. "Your impression of the younger generation is constantly bolstered by finding excellence, which a great many applicants showed," he says. "They're exactly the sort of people that we should like to see at the Medical School."

Pfefferkorn also made important contributions to the Department of Microbiology—now Microbiology and Immunology—as well. When he took over as chair in 1980, the department was small and underfunded. But he built it into one of the strongest departments at DMS, according to Fanger. Pfefferkorn expanded themicrobiology component, created a joint graduate program with the biochemistry department, fostered a collaborative environment, and added an immunology section. But he never lost sight of what was best for the whole institution. "He believed in the School," says Fanger. "Sometimes microbiology—his department—would take a backseat in making a decision that wasn't as

Pfefferkorn, in his Harvard crimson robes, is one of the faculty members whom students have always sought out for a farewell photo at graduation. Here, in 2005, he poses obligingly with Jeffrey Barrett.

Serving on the Admissions Committee, Pfefferkorn admits, "was the only administrative position . . . which I really enjoyed. In contrast to all the other committees, you have a final product to show at the end of each year."

favorable for his department as it would be for the School."

If you looked up "unassuming" in the dictionary, one of the definitions could well be "Elmer Pfefferkorn." He enthralled students without grandstanding. He was quietly supportive of DMS. He toiled in his small but productive lab. (He loved having

This book is about explorer Ernest Shackleton—a topic he is fond of.

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