Former Medical School deans Al Michael and Neal Gault pose with current dean Deborah Powell.
Former dean honored
Neal Gault recognized for his outstanding contributions to medicine
By Nick Hanson
August 27, 2008
As Medical School Dean Deborah Powell and Neal Gault--a former dean and long-time member of the University medical community--eased into their chairs and began to chat, Powell recalled a recent conversation she had had with an alumnus who randomly popped into her office:
The doctor was wondering what Gault was up to.
He relayed many fond memories of the former dean to Powell. Like, for example, the many pieces of valuable wisdom Gault shared with him when he was a young and poor international student. On several occasions, Gault even offered money, giving him $20 to pay for food when he was flat broke. And after graduation, Gault insisted on taking him to a fine eatery to order lobster, a delicacy he had never before experienced, all paid for courtesy of Gault's credit card--the first the new grad had ever seen.
Gault chuckled and nodded as he reminisced about one of the many students he mentored.
"It's unbelievable what you can do if you pay any attention to human nature," he said.
Powell agreed. "If you can change a student's life, you can change medicine," she said.
There's no telling how many lives Gault, now 88, has influenced during his long tenure as a doctor, educator, dean (from 1972-1984), fundraiser, and volunteer at the University of Minnesota Medical School. However, he has recently been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
Since his retirement in 1996, Gault's main role at the University has been as a staunch supporter. And saying he's retired is not exactly accurate when you consider his efforts in the medical community during the past decade.The legacy of Gault--marked by his intense emphasis on international programs, introduction of new and innovative education initiatives, and promoting scholarships for medical education--is still alive and well in the University of Minnesota Medical School. That's precisely the reason he was honored with the University of Minnesota Alumni Service Award during a recent ceremony at which Powell and another former Medical School dean, Al Michael, officiated.
"It's richly deserved," Powell observed.
Since his retirement in 1996, Gault's main role at the University has been as a staunch supporter. And saying he's retired is not exactly accurate when you consider his efforts in the medical community during the past decade.
He has served as a board member and president of the Medical Alumni Society; been a donor and volunteer for the Minnesota Medical Foundation; volunteered to help facilitate reunions, commencements, and other endeavors; and used his networking skills to open doors to many contacts in the medical community.
"I was still productive and contributing after retirement," he said. "Why wouldn't you want to help?"
Even during the Alumni Service Award ceremony, which took place at Gault's Roseville home due to his illness, he continued to share his opinions on the current state of the Medical School.
"He's still offering great ideas, input and insight," Powell said.
As he enters the last phase of his life, Gault isn't gloomy or pessimistic. He looks back on a life marked with achievement, dozens of expeditions across the world, and endless giving. He's content and happy with what he's done.
"I'm so glad to have lived this long," he said. "I've had a good life. I'm a lucky man."