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CSE announces $3 million gift commitment creating endowed chair of pre-health professions


by: Andrea Stafford ’13, digital content/marketing coordinator

The College of Science & Engineering (CSE) is proud to announce the establishment of the Dr. Don L. Smith Endowed Chair of Pre-Health Professions. The endowed chair will bring new opportunities to the Pre-Health Professions Institute, which has roots dating back more than 100 years.

From left to right: Dr. Philip C. Bechtel, Dr. Phil Hartman and Dr. Don L. Smith

The endowed position is being established through the generosity of Dr. Philip C. Bechtel ’67, retired Fort Worth neurosurgeon and emeritus physician at Harris Methodist Hospital. The position is named in honor of Dr. Don (Donny) L. Smith ’64, former TCU Trustee and member of the John V. Roach Honors College Board of Visitors. This gift commitment celebrates Smith’s exemplary service as a leading Fort Worth physician as well as his commitment to the students, faculty and mission of TCU.

Smith, a retired doctor and member of the TCU Lettermen’s Hall of Fame, currently serves on the Pre-Health Professions Institute External Advisory Board. He majored in biology and chemistry before attending the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Smith was also a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and served with the Marines in Vietnam and Okinawa. He later established an obstetrics/gynecology practice in Fort Worth where he practiced until his retirement in 2012.

Like Smith, Bechtel attended the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston after graduating from TCU, followed by residency in neurosurgery at University of Pittsburgh. He was a flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam. Bechtel continues his pursuit of lifelong learning with ongoing studies in neurobiology, Jungian psychology and mythology. He is also a highly-regarded painter; his collection, Celebration of the Unconscious, was featured at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in 2014.

“The Dr. Don L. Smith Endowed Chair of Pre-Health Professions is a transformative gift for the college and the institute,” Dean Phil Hartman said. “This is one of the most profound ways to honor a friend’s professional excellence and commitment while also having a meaningful impact on the pre-health education of future generations.”

Bechtel’s gift will enable the CSE’s Pre-Health Professions Institute to support a distinguished teacher and scholar who will enhance the intellectual climate of the university. In addition to adding prestige to the institute, the endowment will allow the director flexibility to support pre-health students as opportunities arise in such areas as observation programs, clinical internships, and bolstering grants and fellowships for students involved in research.

“All who benefited from the guidance provided by the pre-health faculty through the years understand Dr. Bechtel’s decision to support the institute with his very generous gift,” said Smith. “I am genuinely humbled that he has chosen to associate my name with his noble mission.”

“Don Smith epitomizes the type of physician I believe TCU is capable of producing,” Bechtel said. “There are many factors involved in creating a leader like Donny, but I place my trust for the future in the continued influence of a well-rounded humanistic curriculum overseen by thoughtful, compassionate professors in the TCU pre-health program. I have every expectation that the holder of this chair will see that my hopes in this regard are realized.”

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