Friends and family of E. Chester (Chip) Ridgway, MD, MACP,
gathered Friday afternoon at the School of Medicine to pay tribute to a man whose
work as a physician, researcher and teacher is recognized around the world and whose
life was devoted to his children, his family’s Wyoming ranch and the fellows
and colleagues he mentored throughout his career.
Ridgway, who was the senior associate dean for academic
affairs for the past 20 years, died July 31 just a few weeks after being
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.
Dean Richard Krugman, MD, told the hundreds who gathered
for the ceremony that Ridgway deserves great credit for the School’s successful
move to the Anschutz Medical Campus.
“Much of what we have today is because of his work,”
Krugman said. “Much of the credit goes to people like Chip who actually had the
fortitude to pay attention the thousands of details that made it happen and got
it done years ahead of the plan.
“When academic administration is done well, it is invisible.
He was a critical part of our infrastructure here and we will miss him an enormous
amount, a great deal.”
Ridgway succeeded because he focused on the people around
him and that included the attention he gave to his children, Krugman said.
“His stature in the world of academic medicine is only
superceded by his devotion to his family and friends,” Krugman said.
“He was passionate about furthering the science of
endocrinology, about teaching, and also about putting Colorado on the map as a
top medical institution; this you all know,” said his daughter Emily Ridgway,
MD. “But I also want to tell you that he was equally immersed and devoted to
his role as a father and as a family member and as a patriarch of his extended
family. Dad was larger than life as Hap
(Chip’s brother) said. Magnetic. He galloped through life.”
She recalled that her father scattered soot by the
fireplace and left gifts on the roof of the house one Christmas when she and
one of her brothers began to show doubts in the existence of Santa Claus.
“We all know how devoted dad was to his profession and
how much it meant for him to be part of the University of Colorado,” she said. “We grew up with slide carousels on the
countertop of his talks, and grant applications or drafts of article
submissions on his lap during Broncos games for commercial breaks.”
Before the ceremony began, photos of Ridgway on
horseback, hiking in the mountains, cuddling his grandchild and many other
scenes flashed on a big screen for the 400 people who gathered in the Education
2 auditorium to see.
The ceremony opened with Dan Bessesen, MD, playing guitar
and singing “Tennessee Stud,” a song Ridgway always requested Bessesen and his
band Dogs in the Yard sing at end-of-the-year holiday parties that Ridgway hosted.
“His patients adored him,” said Bryan Haugen, MD, head of
the Department of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism &
Diabetes, a position Ridgway held from 1985 until 2007. “He also was great with
a personal touch, remembering hobbies, travels and life events of so many of
his patients. What a great doctor.”
Emily Ridgway recalled how her father saved letters from
patients and another speaker described how Ridgway helped a patient tie her
shoes when she was struggling with the task on her way out of the office.
Haugen recalled a paper Ridgway’s research group wrote in
collaboration with other scientists and that Ridgway insisted that Haugen be
the first author even though Haugen said the paper could rightfully have been
called the Ridgway paper.
“It is one small example of his greatest gifts, humility
and generosity,” Haugen said.
“I am where I am because of Chip Ridgway,” Haugen said.
“I am who I am because of Chip Ridgway. The more I got to know him, I began to
realize that in all that academic mentoring he was also teaching us about being
Paul Ladenson, MD, and Leonard Wartofsky, MD, colleagues
from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., traveled to Colorado to pay their respects
during the ceremony in the auditorium of Education 2 that was packed with
hundreds of friends. Recorded tributes were provided by a longtime friend,
Daniel (Stony) Anderson, MD, FACP, and by Frederic Hamilton, who endowed the
chair held by Ridgway.
Campus friends and colleagues also spoke.
Paul Bunn, Jr., MD, who like Ridgway is a Distinguished
Professor of the University, recalled Ridgway’s competitive spirit in tennis
matches in Evergreen, bicycling up Mt. Evans and skiing in Aspen, where Ridgway
persevered even though his boot was cutting up his ankle.
“Chip was a tough guy and he pursued excellence in every
endeavor,” Bunn said.
“We heard before that Chip was much more than a triple
threat,” Bunn said. “For those of you don’t do academic medicine, a triple
threat is somebody who is teacher and mentor, an investigator and a leader and
an administrator, but I am here to say Chip was a father, friend, he was an
athlete and a cowboy as well as a physician, teacher and mentor and
James Hill, PhD, executive director of the Anschutz Health
and Wellness Center, said he relied on Ridgway for advice.
“People trusted Chip because they knew he had their best
interests at heart,” Hill said. “He gave you the best advice for you. I found
few people who could take off all their hats – and Chip had a lot of hats – and
really give you the best advice for you, but he could.”
The speakers lauded Ridgway for his drive and commitment.
Bunn said: “When we came here, this was kind of a small place, but Chip wanted
to make it one of the best medical institutions in the world.”
“He loved every day working for this university and this
school,” Haugen said.