OHSU celebrates the legacy of Dean Mark Richardson

Dean Richardson memorial

October 6, 2016

Hundreds of colleagues, students, alumni, friends and family gathered Friday, Sept. 30, at the OHSU Auditorium to remember and celebrate Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine, who died Sept. 2.

“Dear Mark: If I close my eyes, I can see your smile and hear your laughter…. and I miss you,” shared George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine, in one of several very personal reflections. “I miss your boundless energy and ‘can do’ spirit… I miss your visionary leadership and how well you listened… I miss your principled decision-making and your ability to see things with remarkable clarity… I miss your unwavering support for educating outstanding scientists and competent, caring physicians.”

Dr. Richardson was critically injured in a steep fall while doing a home repair on Aug. 13. In her remarks near the end of Friday’s celebration, one of Dr. Richardson’s daughters addressed members of his Legacy Emanuel trauma care team who attended the celebration.

“Thank you so much for the handholding, the gentle explanations, the proactive care and attention to both my dad and his family,” Abigail Richardson Maletis said. “We never anticipated this scenario. Who would? But your professional and, more so, your pragmatism helped us toward an end that we did not want, but that was as gentle and tolerable as we could hope for.”

Sentiments spoken, sung and written

The Celebration of Life began with “Ave verum corpus” Motet in D by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sung by the OHSU Faculty and Student Choir. Sylvia Nelson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Dentistry, directed the choir and Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., assistant dean for student affairs in the Graduate Studies program, OHSU School of Medicine, played the piano.

The choir returned to the stage later wearing dark fleece vests, Dr. Richardson’s wardrobe staple, and sang “What a Wonderful World” by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, arrangement by Russ Robinson.

Joe Robertson, M.D. R '82, M.B.A., president of OHSU and acting dean of the School of Medicine after Dr. Richardson’s accident, welcomed attendees, shared reflections and also thanked the trauma care team. A video “Honoring a Visionary Leader” brought together the words of friends, colleagues and family members with photographs from throughout Dr. Richardson’s life.

Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, OHSU School of Medicine, spoke of the oak tree in front of Mackenzie Hall that suddenly split and fell to the ground just days after Dr. Richardson died.

“As the grounds crew began to remove what remained, one faculty member leaned over and said, ‘The tree was heartbroken from the loss of Mark,’” shared Dr. Stenzel-Poore. “Since that time, we have heard this over and over. We all are heartbroken.”

Wood from the oak tree is being preserved to create a memorial.

A mentor, an apprentice, a colleague, a father

Danielle Robinson, Ph.D. candidate in the school's Neuroscience Graduate Program, and Lauren Moneta, M.D., Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Residency Program, told stories of Dr. Richardson as a mentor who not only believe in but challenged them to reach their potential. Charles Cummings, M.D., distinguished service professor, Department of Otolaryngology – HNS, at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, traveled across the country to share his reflections as Dr. Richardson’s mentor.

The celebration concluded with Dr. Robertson introducing John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.,  who became interim dean of the school in keeping with Dr. Richardson’s wishes during his retirement planning. But first, Abby Richardson Maletis took the podium.

Ms. Maletis deeply thanked not only the trauma team at Legacy Emanuel but so many friends, colleagues and family members for their steadfast and continuous care and support since her father’s accident.

With touching humor, she built a bridge between the Dr. Richardson known to colleagues and students and the Mark Richardson she knew as dad. She described him as active, handy, loving, brilliant and extraordinary. But patience, a virtue that many of his students described, was not “at the top of the list,” she said.

“When I was growing up, he was desperate to teach me – particularly me because I was a little slower at things – things like swimming or counting money or riding a bike,” she explained. “Undoubtedly I would end up in tears, he would storm off, and then Mom would teach me how to do it.”

She ended with what she believed he would say to his wife, Ellen, to herself and her sister, Caroline, and their families and what he would say to his colleagues and students:

“I think he would say something like, ‘Stay the course and work hard,’” she said, “and I’m guessing that because of the way he lived and worked, he left a path for you to do just that… So let’s stay the course and live big. Because he sure did.”

The OHSU Foundation and the Richardson family have set up the Mark A. Richardson Deanship Endowment. Contributions can be made online.