Amherst Magazine
Alfred S. Schwartz, m.d. '32

I am sad to report that my father, Al Schwartz, died November 10, 2005. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for years but had avoided the effects of this disease while Mom was alive. After Mom died last year, the cancer took over. Dad died peacefully in his sleep at home.

Many of Dad’s relatives went to Amherst before him, so it was natural that he should follow. Arnold Hemley ’31, Jesse Hemley ’27, Leonard Hemley ’31, Cecil Hemley ’34, and Bernard (Bunny) Gottlieb ’31 were all cousins. Dad’s brother, Eugene Schwartz, was a member of the class of 1935. Dad was the baby of his class; in the fall of 1928, Dad had just turned fifteen. His teachers thought he should wait and enroll a year later, but his father thought otherwise. Given his young age, it was no wonder that he felt that he did not fit in with the rest of the class.

In his freshman year, Dad roomed with George Samuelson, his first real friend; they remained close throughout their lives. A later roommate, Bob Sachs, always addressed Dad as “child.” In spite of this, Dad and Bob were great friends.

Dad played outfield on a non-fraternity baseball team at Amherst. He told the story about making an outstanding catch one time. His teammates were yelling at him, but he was given an error. He was so thrilled with his great play that he proudly examined the ball in his mitt but failed to throw it home, permitting the opposition to score a run. That was the end of Dad’s baseball career at Amherst.

Dad would send his laundry home to Jersey City. His mother, like all good Jewish mothers, wanted to make sure her little boy was well nourished. So, when she sent the laundry back, she would invariably include some food. Dad would go to class with clothes that smelled like roasted turkey.

Dad’s original plan was to become a journalist. In fact, his senior year, he was the editor of the Student. But Dad went on to become a pediatrician. He studied medicine at Johns Hopkins and did his residency in St. Louis, where he met my mother, the former Ellen Jane Freund. Mom and Dad were married for sixty-four wonderful years.

Dad practiced pediatrics in St. Louis from 1938 until 1972. He was a clinical professor at Washington University and was on staff at Barnes, Jewish and Children’s hospitals. Dad had always incorporated psychology in his practice, and in 1972 he discontinued his conventional practice to treat children with emotional problems. This career change allowed Dad to seriously pursue his long-standing photography interests. His pictures of people are extremely perceptive.

In 1981, Dad had his first one-man show at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. He won numerous national and local photographic contests, including one sponsored by the Saturday Review. The Fodor 1976 travel book used his winning photograph. His work was included in an exhibit of Missouri Photographers, sponsored by the University of Missouri in 1976, and in a Spiva Art Center exhibit in 1982.

Recently, Dad donated several photographs of children to the University City Children’s Center. There was a reception to acknowledge Dad’s work and gift, but, unfortunately, Dad died ten days before the event. We proceeded with the reception; Dad would have wanted that.

Mom and Dad loved to travel. I don’t think there was any continent other than Antarctica that they did not visit.

Dad wrote several papers for medical journals about childhood behavior problems. One of Dad’s most famous achievements was with the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information. The committee led the St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey in the 1950s and 1960s which studied almost 300,000 baby teeth, searching for clues about fallout from atomic and hydrogen bombs. The study found that the teeth absorbed nuclear material from the atmosphere. The findings of the study eventually contributed to the nuclear test ban treaty.

Dad was a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a director of the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union. Dad also volunteered regularly at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Recently, inspired by Peter Pouncey’s book, Rules for Old Men Waiting, Dad began writing his memoirs. It was very gratifying for Dad and me to reflect on all the significant (and often hilarious) events of his life in preparation for each chapter.

Even in death, Dad continues to teach at Washington University; he donated his body to the medical school. We are planning on having a memorial service January 7, 2006 in St. Louis.

Dad’s life was full of joy, love, service, intellect, creativity and adventure. Who could ask for more?

—Andy Schwartz ’65

 

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