Dr. Donald Red Honors His Late Wife, UTMB Education and Training with $100,000 Gift
As he stood on the porch of his fraternity house one evening, the second-year medical student noticed a striking brunette as she walked past.
He was at once taken by her beauty, simple dress and bare feet.
He had to meet her.
Jill Townsend Watson, a UTMB nursing student at the time, happened to share a dorm room with a student who was dating a fraternity brother of his.
An introduction was surreptitiously arranged and about a year later in 1958, the pair married. Jill Red graduated from UTMB that year at the top of her class. They remained in Galveston while Dr. Red completed his last year of medical school.
“We had a great life together,” Dr. Donald Red said from his home in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where he and his late wife Jill Red lived for most of their 53-year marriage. “We have four sons who are great men and are all very accomplished. We also have six grandchildren.”
To honor his wife, who died in 2011 from lung cancer, Dr. Red gave a gift to UTMB to name a room in the Jennie Sealy Hospital in her name. Another room will be named in his honor.
“All of us at UTMB are honored by Dr. Red and other alumni who have stepped forward to support their alma mater and our Jennie Sealy Hospital,” said Dr. David Callender, UTMB’s president. “We’re grateful to Dr. Red and his willingness to invest so meaningfully in UTMB’s future.”
After he graduated from UTMB in 1959, Dr. Red enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. His 11-years of service began with an internship at Wilford Hall Hospital in San Antonio followed by year of study in the Air Force’s School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base. After he graduated, Dr. Red was a flight surgeon assigned to the 526th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base.
He also served as chief flight surgeon during NASA’s Project Mercury program, which was the precursor to Project Gemini and the Apollo missions that followed. Dr. Red met all of the Mercury 7 astronauts while he was a flight surgeon. During John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth in 1962, Dr. Red and a helicopter team was stationed in Africa.
“NASA stationed these contingency teams all around the world just in case his capsule came down,” Dr. Red said of his role in Glenn’s mission.
He then was a resident in UTMB’s radiology program where he trained with pioneers of UTMB’s Department of Radiology Dr. Martin Schneider, who was director of the Radiation Therapy Division, Dr. Robert Cooley, who was the department’s chairman, and Dr. Melvyn Schreiber, who followed Dr. Cooley as chairman. Dr. Red was then chief resident from 1965-1966. He went on to serve at an Air Force hospital in Ohio until he resigned his commission in 1970.
Afterward, he could “write his own ticket” wherever he wished to go because radiology was a swiftly developing specialty in great demand. His career began at a time when interventional radiology, MRI and CT scan technologies were in their infancy.
“The rapid development of digital imaging methods changed the whole course of radiology,” he said. “I had to learn all of this as I went along because they didn’t exist when I was in my residency.”
He spent the next 31 years at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, where he ultimately became chairman of the Department of Radiology. He also served a term as medical staff president. Dr. Red retired in 2001.
Not long ago, Dr. Red said he was considering what he should do in memory of his wife, who was diagnosed with lung cancer a year after their 50th anniversary. A member of UTMB’s Development Office coincidentally contacted Dr. Red and spoke to him about the new hospital and naming options available.
“I thought the hospital would be a perfect way to commemorate her,” Dr. Red said.
In 2016, Dr. Red, his sons and their families intend to make the trip to Galveston to see the new hospital and Mrs. Red’s room. The last time Dr. Red visited UTMB was in 2004 with his wife at his side.