In Memoriam: Dr. Warner V. Slack ’55

Dear AlumniCorps Community,

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Warner V. Slack ’55, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of the Division of Clinical Informatics, on June 23, 2018. Warner and his wife Carolyn Paxton Slack were great supporters of AlumniCorps; Warner served on AlumniCorps’ board for four terms spanning 1993 to 1999, and 2007 to 2013, and as recently as 2017 donated his time to mentor Fellows in the Boston area. Warner passed away at the age of 85 in Carolyn’s arms on the morning of their 62nd wedding anniversary after battling pulmonary fibrosis.

Warner was among the first physicians to envision the essential role that computers would play in medicine and healthcare delivery. His landmark work involving computer-patient interviews, begun during the 1960s, anticipating by decades the now-prevalent field of electronic medical records. He was a strong advocate for patient rights in what became HIPAA.  As his son, the author Charlie Slack wrote:

[Warner Slack’s] article “The Patient’s Right to Decide,” published in the British journal The Lancet, put forth a then-radical idea of “patient power”—encouraging patients and physicians alike to overturn the traditionally paternalistic nature of healthcare. Patients, Dr. Slack believed, should play a crucial part in determining their own care. Their insight, he often said, was “the least utilized resource in healthcare.’

A New Jersey native, Warner went on after Princeton to graduate from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1959. He served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.  He later returned to the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the Departments of Medicine and Computer Science, where he had done his residency, and where he subsequently developed the first computer-based medical history system.  In 1970 he was recruited to Harvard. From 1989 to 1998 Dr. Slack was editor in chief of the journal MD Computing. Active in civil and humanitarian causes, Warner participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Freedom March, was co-founder of Faculty and Students for Equality at University of Wisconsin, and even into his 70’s traveled to Honduras to provide humanitarian medical assistance.

 Warner V. Slack dry-erase board mural
A dry-erase board mural shared on the reflections site of the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians Informatics Department, http://hmfpinformatics.org/slack/?show_all=true

Loved ones recall his warmth, optimism, gentleness, and generosity. He was happiest spending time with Carolyn and family at their cabin on Meddybemps Lake in Maine. A long-time Newton, MA resident, he was a trustee of Lasell College.

Warner’s classmates remember him as a warm-hearted and deeply effective leader of Princeton AlumniCorps, from its inception as Project 55 to his last days. His engagement and support ran the gamut – from assembling Fellowship mentors every year to organizing events in Boston to mentoring many Project 55 Fellows himself over the years. He also supported AlumniCorps’ mission with his time and thoughtful advice as a board member, and with his generous financial giving. As classmate George Hackl reflects, “In his self-effacing way Warner was the epitome of everything we strive to be at AlumniCorps.” On his website Ralph Nader ’55 recalls, “I called Dr. Slack to express my deepest admiration and said: ‘For all your adult life, Warner, you have been a physician’s physician, a patient’s physician, a student’s physician, a citizen’s physician, and a champion of peace and justice.’ “

In addition to his wife of 62 years, Dr. Slack is survived by daughters Alison and Jennifer, son Charlie, and seven grandchildren.

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert (Bob) Myrl Amick ’55

Dear AlumniCorps Community,

We were deeply saddened to learn last week of the death of Dr. Robert (Bob) Myrl Amick ’55 on Saturday, January 13, 2018, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Bob died peacefully in his sleep after persevering through myriad health issues over the years. Bob and his wife Carol Ruth Jockers Amick were true friends of AlumniCorps; Bob served on the Princeton Project 55 Board from 1999 to 2005 and, as late as 2014, generously donated his time to mentor Fellows in the Boston area. AlumniCorps is truly grateful for his years of service and very generous support of Princeton AlumniCorps.

Bob had an accomplished career in medicine and medical administration. He received his MD from Yale Medical School in 1959, which is also where he met Carol. He interned at Cincinnati General Hospital and after a residency served in the Army at the Fort Chaffee, Arkansas station hospital. He completed his military service in June 1965 and moved with his family to Boston, where he worked in cancer chemotherapy at the adult clinic of the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, a division of Boston Children’s Hospital. Bob moved to Veteran’s Hospital in Jamaica Plain, MA in 1967, where he was promoted to staff physician and then appointed Chief of Staff in 1974. He received a Master’s Degree in Management Science from MIT’s Sloan School of Management as a Sloan Fellow in 1979. He returned to Veteran’s Hospital as the Associate Chief of Staff for Education, which he held until his retirement in 1998. He also held an academic post at Boston University School of Medicine as well as membership in various regional and national VA advisory groups. Bob exemplifies the contributions the members of the Class of ’55 have made to society themselves and, through Project 55, now AlumniCorps, through succeeding generations of Princetonians.

Bob’s classmates and colleagues described him as generous, quiet, and solid. Mike Lee ’55 had the privilege of attending Yale Medical School with Bob – Mike fondly remembers their experiences as lab partners. George Hackl ’55 said, “Bob was admired by his classmates for his integrity, his intelligence, his wit, and the fundamental goodness of his heart.” Kenly Webster ’55 noted he has “never known a more genuine person, dedicated to fairness and the highest ethical principles.” Steve Boyd ’55 remembered that while Bob did not attend the founding meeting of Princeton Project 55, Steve traveled soon thereafter to Boston and successfully recruited Bob to sign on to the nascent organization’s cause. Pete Milano ’55 remarked, “Bob was a person of the highest ethical and moral standards imaginable, always with a caring and insightful demeanor in his approach to people and in addressing issues of consequence. We will sorely miss him.” Anne-Marie Maman ’84 credits Bob for making her feel welcome when she was first introduced to AlumniCorps through the Boston Area Committee.

Bob is survived by his wife, Carol, of Brookline, MA; son Robert (Charlie) Amick and his wife, Tamra, of Sunnyvale, CA; daughter Helen Amick of Sunnyvale, CA; daughter Joan Kelly and her husband, Steve, of Newton, MA; daughter Lisa DiAdamo and her husband, Rob, of Brookline, MA; brother James Amick of Princeton, NJ; eleven grandchildren; and two nieces and two nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Donald Amick of Warren, NJ; his sister-in-law Helen Bradley of Center Tuftonboro, NH, and a niece.

A memorial service in celebration of Bob’s life will be held on Saturday, February 3rd at 10:30 am at the Union Church in Waban – 14 Collins Road, Waban, MA 02468. There will be a luncheon to follow at The Country Club – 191 Clyde Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.

Bob’s quiet leadership and dedication are a model for us all.

In Community,

Liz Duffy ’88, Board Chair
Debra Kushma ’80, Vice President
Kef Kasdin ’85, President & Executive Director

Profile from our Network: Jim Gregoire ’69

Jane & Jim Gregoire at Princeton Reunions

Jim Gregoire ’69 has been an avid, long-time supporter of Princeton AlumniCorps, sitting on our board from 1996 to 2008. In 2006 he attained the distinction of being the first non-’55er AlumniCorps Board President. During his tenure on the board the finance committee managed AlumniCorps’ endowment, helping to ensure the stability and long-term health of the organization. Jim is also committed to Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS), where he’s a current board member and past board chair. However, in addition to mobilizing Princetonians for the public good, Jim has another passion: hiking. He walked the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail over the course of 11 years. “When my wife Jane and I got together, I was finishing the Trail, but I told her I wanted to do something bigger and more grand. I said, ‘I think I want to walk across the country!’ ” Fortunately for Jim, Jane said yes both to marrying him and to his hiking aspirations. Jane has been a true partner in Jim’s endeavors. She keeps their network of friends and family abreast of his adventures via blog posts which she writes based on their daily conversations (jim-fall2017.blogspot.com). She also meets Jim at different points on the hike route to give moral support and provide transportation. On his trek across the U.S., Jim would fly or drive to his starting point, then complete a portion of the hike over the course of several weeks. True to his declaration to Jane, Jim walked across the country, from Portland, ME to Washington State. That feat took 300+ days over the course of eight years and was completed in 14 segments. More recently, in October Jim completed his third major milestone: He walked 2,490 miles over 156 days from Key West, FL to Lubec, ME. He started this hike in 2014, hiking from the southernmost point of the East Coast to the easternmost part of the country on the Canadian border.

Why hiking? After reluctantly abandoning long-distance running in the late 1990s due to worn-out knees, Jim took up long-distance hiking because “every day on a trail is an adventure. Anything can happen, from skies opening up and soaking me, to wildlife like otters frolicking by.” Some sections of a given route are risky, forcing him to hyper-vigilantly watch each oncoming car and truck. It’s all worth the risk to him: “I see parts of the country I’m not familiar with. I got to walk across over 70 bridges in the Florida Keys, an area now devastated by this September’s Hurricane Irma.

Jim in Lubec, ME in October 2017, at the end of his third major milestone hike.

Perspective on humanity: Jim has gotten insights into human nature while on his hikes.

“I met people who were so generous. I’d wander into a town late in the afternoon, and I’d go into the local bar & grill and order a beer. I’d start talking to the bartender and soon everyone would engage and give me advice about where to put up my tent. Not a single person has done me ill. You get such a different perspective on people when you’re talking one on one about the basic necessities of life. One couple in upstate New York even allowed me to stay in their little cabin for three days to rest my blisters. They’d pick me up and bring me to their house so I could take a break from carrying my backpack.”

Appreciating nature: Jim saw pieces of America that aren’t easily accessible by car. “I did the Lewis and Clark trail, and I could just see the history. I finished the trip along the Columbia River on the Washington/Oregon border, which is where Lewis and Clark terminated their exploration of the Louisiana Territory.”

Jim says he has been blessed with extraordinary good fortune on his hikes, “I was never sick, and I was never depressed [conditions that can hamper a long-distance hiker]. I never had a problem with animals, despite tenting out most nights. My closest call was crossing Glacier National Park in Montana. I saw a bush wiggling and I knew it was hiding a grizzly bear. After I deliberately made a noise, the bear came out of the bushes and stood on his hind legs, 10 feet tall!” Luckily for Jim, the bear eventually moved enough off the trail so Jim could continue his hike unharmed.

After Jim got to the Canadian border in Downeast Maine, Jane posted on Facebook: “I am blown away by my husband’s dogged determination when he sets a goal.” Jim’s determination blows us away too. We are honored that he chooses to expend some of it on Princeton AlumniCorps!