Theodore Dushan, A42, M50

Biography

Margaret Holmes Cook, J25

Theodore Dushan, A42, M50

Dr. Ted Dushan, A42, M50, grew up with a twin brother and a sister in Dorchester, where his father was a physician (and graduate of Tufts Medical School) and his mother active in the community. He found Tufts a great match, enjoyed the professors, and taking an active role in Phi Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity. "One of Tufts great gifts to the student is that it's a small university where you don't feel that you're a number," he recalls. After graduating from Tufts and then, after serving in the Army, Tufts Medical School, he took up his lifelong dream of being a family doctor. Today he has been pediatrician in Swampscott, Massachusetts for nearly 50 years and has no intention of retiring.


Interview Excerpt

Theodore Dushan, A42, M50

On working

"People always ask me at this point in my career, 'How come you're still working?' says Dushan. "Well, I've asked that myself-- why am I still doing this? And the simple answer: "It's what I do and it's who I am." And interesting enough, it's the same answer my dad, who was one of the finest physicians I've ever known--and he was a Tufts grad--gave me when I asked him, "What in the hell are you doing practicing at 80?" And he said, "Simple. This is who I am." And I think for me and for some of my compatriots, as we talk about it, you get so used to having people depend on you that having to deal with yourself alone somehow seems very, very strange, so that you wake up in the morning, you're thinking about somebody that you spoke to last night or the morning before. "What have I got to do today?" When that's gone you-it's like there's nothing, so that for me it's just a way of life. Besides, I enjoy the kids."

On influences that circumstances led to Tufts College

I think the first thing was the fact that Dad had graduated from Tufts. And then I used to play tennis at Franklin Field and when I was in high school a number of the guys that played tennis down there were going to Tufts. And they used to talk about Tufts. But actually, you know, as I think back about it, they talked more about the Rez than they did about Tufts. And I said, "What in the world is the Rez?" And I'll never forget, one of them said to me, "If you ever get to Tufts,"-he says, "you'll know." And that s my first inkling of what the reservoir was all about.

On first impressions

I was scared. We got there and it was just before the hurricane and we were at Fletcher [Hall] and I remember meeting my two roommates . . . And it was-I was-see, I was scared. You know, what will I do? How will I get along with the rest of these guys?

On what influenced the decision to choose Tufts over another school

I kind of liked the idea that it was small. It was close to home so you had all the advantages of being in the big city. It was right at hand. So anything that I needed that somebody who was living in New York or Philly or Chicago or so forth in town had literally was at my beck and call if I so desired.So it seemed to me I had the best of both worlds. I was away from home. When you were on the hill you were away yet I could walk down in a few minutes and be pretty much as I was back at home in Dorchester.

On missing a credit for graduation

Dr. Ohman was a chemistry professor. He was also a great squash player and I played a lot of squash at Tufts and, quite frankly, chemistry bugged me. And I don't know whether I did it on purpose but I did miss a midterm in chemistry. I never made it up. Now, I come to graduation, okay? Dr. Givens, who was a professor of psychology and was a nice guy, but I must admit kind of forgetful at times, had never asked me to make that up. And he was my advisor. Come graduation, 1942, I received a letter about six days before graduation, "Dear Ted. You're not going to be able to graduate. You don't have enough credits." I ran down to chemistry hall to see Dr. Ohman. The doc says, "You have to make up the test." I says, "It's two years. I haven't had this chemistry for two"-he says, "I'm sorry. That's the only way you can get the credits." Well, the guys in the house sat with me for three days and nights trying to teach me chemistry. And I go into the hall. There's Dr. Ohman, "How are you this morning, Theodore?" "Not too good, Professor." "Okay, here's your stuff. I'll be right over here." An hour and a half later he says, "Time." I looked at him. He writes "Pass." I said, "You didn't even look at it." He said, "I didn't intend to." I could have killed him-[laughs] for those three days I went through hell, you know. Then my father and my mother and my twin brother and-you know, everybody's coming to the graduation and there I am, you know. Oh, I'll never forget that. Every time I saw Dr. Ohman, God rest his soul, after that he used to say, "How's your chemistry, Ted?"

On lectures and classes

The lectures were large from the standpoint, comparing to what you had in high school, you know. But comparing to what I see at some of the universities at this point, [chuckles] you know, they were small. But the thing about-I remember about Tufts most vividly, walking on campus and everybody saying "hi." People, you know, you didn't know and would probably never really know, "Hi." It was just an atmosphere of friendliness and belonging. You know, I can still see myself walking down and going to the library and particularly when you're a freshman. You know, and of course the freshman caps, you know, and I still remember the freshman caps. But there was a feeling of belonging, at least for me. I felt very much at home.

On the social hierarchy of classes

Well, you know, in a sense, if you think back--within the family is a hierarchy. In fact, one of the things that I [do is] write a column for the "Daily Item." And when they asked me to do it I told them I would not do a pediatric column because but I'd like to let some of the new parents know my feelings about parenting and about what the family is. And the family is a hierarchy. In truth, from my standpoint, it's a benevolent dictatorship. And that's one of the problems that I see out there; we've lost control. The kids are in control but the hierarchy on the hill as a freshman, the Sword and Shield Group, the Sophomore Honorary Society, man, you wanted to become a sophomore. That was--well, if you think back when you're a child and you've got an older brother--you want to get to be where older brother is because look at all the perks he's got. So in a sense, it was like family. And the seniors... they were living gods, you know. You really wanted to become a sophomore. Then you wanted to become a junior, so that there was this feeling that there was next year, next year.

On social heirarchy of classes as "a learning lesson"

Because that's the way the world is. You know, we'd like to-we keep talking about equality but one of the most difficult things that I see in my practice is for children and teenagers to learn that nothing is free. You have to earn everything. And it-moving from one level to another, it's because you've earned the right to be at that level. You just can't be given that, and so that a hierarchy serves a purpose, I think. You really aspire to become another-get a-to be an upperclassman.

On compulsory chapel

[Goddard] chapel was like hallowed ground. I don't know whether it's the way the building is made, the facade, the brick or stone, but you just felt-when you went in there was a whole-generations of guys had been there before you, so that chapel was-I found it a very pleasant experience.

On the coming sense of war, friendships and lifetime goals

I remember there were guys who were so bright and I'm not sure whether it was because the war was in the offing, but everybody seemed to have a goal, particularly the seniors. And maybe it was because they weren't sure they were going to be able to meet that goal because the war was imminent at that time, even when we were freshmen-'38, '39. You knew--you saw Hitler marching across Europe. You ...didn't have to be told that something was going to happen. .... you kind of knew that there was going to be some sort of problem. And then, of course, when December 7th came then, you know, everything changed. You knew that was it. Yet, when you were on the hill you were isolated. When you were on the hill nothing could touch you. In a sense it was almost like a cocoon.

On the Rez experience

It was fun. So many of the guys were going out, were dating Jackson women. But you were soon exposed to the fact that there was a lover's lane on the hill, and you soon got from the upper classmen what the reservoir was all about. That was where you took your date. And, you know, it was funny because someone would always say, "Have you been up to the Res yet?" You know. But the reservoir was--it was a lovely place to walk, you know. And it was a-it was a great place to take your date. . . . That was a place to neck. . . . .you had to make out at the reservoir. If you didn't, your whole year was wasted, you know. [chuckles]

Taking a date to Boston

In Boston, if you had a date, depending on who the date was --you know, in those days, I think you could get a-you could get a scotch for 50 cents. Of course, you had to have 50 cents but there were always dances at one of the places. I'm trying to think of their name. I just-one of the places on the Charles there was a dance hall. . . There were half a dozen dance halls that you would go to. Occasionally, if you felt flush you would go to one of the bars in town.

Laura Ferguson: What was the budget for a date? I mean, if you were a-

Ted Dushan: Oh, God. If you had $5, you were rich. I mean, there was very little that you couldn't do.

On recalling Nils Wessel

He was the dean and I had to go to the dean on occasion. And we got to be good friends. Years later, when I became president of the North Shore Tufts Club and helped start the Tufts Club he got more involved in-then when I had the pleasure of them giving me the Distinguished Service Award-Alumni Award from the Medical School, he-

Laura Ferguson: So a little background there if you don't mind. Now, you said you visited him on a number of occasions-a disciplinary-

Ted Dushan: Well, there was-occasionally they were mildly disciplinary, I would say. And he-but he was a young man, you know--very young in those days and a delightful guy who always made me feel that he really cared about what was happening to me. And also, for me, always was the epitome of what Tufts was all about. He, in a sense-when I thought of Tufts I would think of Wessel.

Laura Ferguson: What words come to mind then when you say he epitomized Tufts?

Ted Dushan: He just--it seemed to me he wanted everybody to succeed.

On challenging authority

Back in those days, you know, protests against the university, you're protesting against God. I mean, you know, you're here by the grace of God. But, you know, there wasn't that kind of need to prove who you were by protesting. You know, and I think so much of the protests that I see really have nothing to do with the issue at hand, but have to do with the individuals making the statement that 'I am an individual,' so that I think back in those days, just as the same way, you know, who would dare to stand up to the Sword and Shield? I mean, you know, God would forbid it. I think in those days our mindset, you might disagree with what they were doing but I don't think you ever had that kind of, "Well, I'm going to go out and protest," or "I'm going to have a sit-in." Good Lord, no.

On remembering a sense of place

The place I think most of us did that was the library because there was-there was a little co-op store too there as well. The library steps--you'd sit there. That was a place where most would sit between classes because, when you think about it, you had Miner, Paige; you had East Hall and then you had Breaker Hall. There weren't that many buildings.

On the expectations of Tufts Collge and if Tufts met them

I think for most of us when you get accepted and you set foot on the Hill it may be that some are thinking, 'Boy, I wonder what my math course is going to be like.' I've got to admit, it certainly was not mine here. First thought there--it's got to be, 'I'm independent for the first time.' You know, and when one talks about adolescence and the drive for autonomy and the search for independence, those are the two great drives for adolescence. And when you think about it, most of us are either 18 or 19, we're still at the end of adolescence. So you're suddenly now coming to your independence and your autonomy. And now comes the search for, "Who am I?" "What will I be and when?" So that those are the things I think that most of us--and certainly those are the things --that I have.