Deceased February 23, 2015

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50th Reunion Book Entry

In Memory

The class of ’56 has lost an outstanding man. Jon, at the time of his death, was serving as chief of the neurology service at the District of Columbia VA Medical Center, as professor of neurology at Georgetown University and as clinical professor of neurology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

His areas of specialty were metabolic disorders such as Leigh’s Disease; the mechanism of action of anti-seizure drugs such as Phenobarbital and Dilantin; and Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

After Amherst Jon earned his M.D. from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He spent 25 years at Yale, rising from a resident to a full professor of neurology. In 1986 he was appointed chair of neurology at Georgetown University, becoming chairman emeritus in 2000. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and served as a member of the American Neurological Association for two years.

Jon was also an author. In addition to more than 150 articles, he co-authored a well-known textbook, Behavioral Neurology. He also published a book based on extensive research, What Makes Killers Kill. I have read it, and it is excellent and still highly relevant.

Alan Levenstein ’56 remembers that, during our junior year, he and Jon were cast in a Bernard Shaw one-act play, Great Catherine. The two of them competed for the most outlandish Russian accents they could produce. Alan said that, if Jon had not gone into medicine, he could have been a wonderful character actor. Jon, we will miss you greatly!

James C. Blackburn ’56

50th Reunion

I  very much treasure the education I received at Amherst. During the four years I spent there, under the influence of my friends and the faculty, I learned to think and to express what I thought. I think that my association with Amherst helped to propel me into my career (academic medicine) and I am very grateful for that too.

The positive aspects of my education were so good  and   important, it seems querulous to harp on the negatives  but  there were a few. To my dying day, I will resent having been forced to attend Christian religious services (Chapel) twice weekly while I attended Amherst. The tremendous emphasis that forced us to conform socially also remains a sore spot, though both made it easier for me to succeed in the WASPy world of Columbia P and S and Yale, where I spent 25 years.

My residency training in Neurology was followed by faculty appointment. During those years my laboratory and clinical research, teaching, and patient care responsibilities provided me with deeply satisfying experiences that I would repeat in a second, if the opportunity presented for me to relive my life. I would have had it no other way.

Many of my medical colleagues and classmates feel that they would not consider following a career in medicine in today's reality of HMOs etc. I do not agree with them. The scientific problems on which I have worked with some success will always be there; patients will always need their doctor's skills and knowledge; and medical students will always need teachers of medical art and science. My need to be needed would probably carry me toward medicine even if the remuneration were half what it has become.

I married for the third time a year ago a wonderful woman whose companionship I enjoy and whose intelligence and dignity I respect and honor. She has two lovely daughters one of whom lives nearby with her husband (an Orthodox rabbi in Baltimore) and 5 children. My oldest son, Daniel, lives nearby. He bas 6 children I by his first wife who also lives nearby with their beautiful, delightful 13-year-old daughter and. other five nearby as well; my middle son, Jeremy, It in Boston with his wife and two gorgeous children; my youngest, Adam, lives in Jerusalem, Israel his charming Israeli wife. They have four marvelous.

Theirs is a very wholesome, observant household. My son is an ardent religious Zionist. Between us, my wife and I have 17 grandchildren, thus far. Her youngest daughter has just married.

I still work full-time as chief of the Neurology service at the VA Hospital in Washington DC. We have a 16 bed in-patient service, 8 attendings, a residency we share with Georgetown University (18 residents) and we teach half the 250 Georgetown 3rd year medical students for whom Neurology is a required course. Having retired as Chair of Neurology at Georgetown University, I remain a full professor and look forward each day to my administrative, teaching, service, and research responsibilities. They will have to carry me out. I will never voluntarily retire.

I seem to be in remission from a nasty illness, Primary Amyloidosis, for which I travel to London twice a year for checkups. They have put me on a conservative treatment program that has worked wonders over the past three years. It is a very bad disease at times but I have not lost a day to illness since I first developed it, thanks to my own doctors there. I am very well impressed by the NHS and the idea of a single payer r tern of medical care, needless to say.
I hope to be there for the 50th and the 55th.


Jonathan Pincus