{President's Report 2003}
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Degrees of Experience

Bill Devlin in Memorial's Field House

At six feet six inches tall, Bill Devlin (MD '88) fills the doorway as he strides fluidly into the room. Despite the slight pucker above his belt, Bill, age 40, retains the athleticism that made him a local varsity basketball star in the '70s and '80s. As his wife, Molly Brennan, attests, "He's the kind of guy who can pick something up and be good at it right away."

Bill and Molly are visiting his family in St. John's from Michigan with their sons Eamon (8) and Sean (6). It's a blustery February morning and the Devlins, who met in 1982 while both Rhodes scholars at Oxford, have braved the winds and ice to visit Alumni House. "It's only when you go away and come back you realize how harsh the winter here can be," says Bill as he slides into an armchair in the boardroom. Seated nearby, Molly, who grew up in a suburb of Detroit, recalls her first visit to St. John's in1986 as entering a "maze of snow-banked streets."

Growing up in St. John's Bill had his share of winter, playing street hockey and ice hockey. But it was on the basketball court where he excelled, drawing the attention of his grade five coach, Bill Brophy (BA(Ed.)'71; B.Ed.'71), at St. Bon's. In his first year at Memorial in 1980 Bill made the junior varsity team coached by Dr. Bill Redden "Bill Redden helped to develop a lot of my skills." This gave him the focus to later play varsity under Frank Butler.

Devlin's love of basketball has played second string to another passion. It was kindled by an incident in the winter of Bill's 13th year when his father, Paul, was recovering from a heart attack. He'd returned to work as a stockbroker and was living healthier. He and Bill's mother, Marie, planned a trip to Florida. Bill's voice is composed as he recalls one fateful evening. "My father had had a good day… Mom and[my sister] Ann were upstairs and my father was on the couch when he suffered a fatal heart attack. I remember trying to push on his chest. I didn't know formal CPR but I tried and then ran to get our neighbour who was a doctor," Bill pauses. "I watched him die…. I'm sure that had a bearing on me not just becoming a doctor but also on becoming a cardiologist. What my mother went through as a young widow, what my sister and I went through, that experience has helped me to relate better to my patients."

When Bill graduated from Memorial he moved to Michigan to be with Molly while he completed his internship. He studied internal medicine, eventually specializing in cardiology. And his predilection for excellence has prevailed there, too. He is a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital near Detroit, one of the top cardiology hospitals in the U.S. "Every day in the clinical situation I think about my education in general medicine at Memorial. I rub elbows with people who were trained at big universities like Stanford and I don't feel inadequate at all. We need to maintain that excellence at Memorial."

"Education is much more than simply getting your degree," Bill adds, glancing across the table at Molly. "It's about your total experience at university. That's why I want to give back to Memorial by first creating an athletic scholarship and eventually by doing something for the Medical School."

Always the competitor, he plans to challenge fellow medical alumni of Memorial to donate $1,000 annually to the medical program to build endowed scholarships for students. "Think of the benefits to the province, to the university, to the medical school, and to the education of doctors."

"Educated people can help make things better in the world. Funding scholarships is one way to help make that happen," says Molly leaning forward in her seat. Bill nods.

He sums up their feelings on giving: "Philanthropy should leave you with a good feeling. And if we can help Memorial attract better student athletes with scholarships named after my parents, then that makes us feel good."