Chicago Sun-Times

Po­di­a­trist headed Dr. Scholl Col­lege

- BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL Staff Re­porter Email: mod­on­nell@ suntimes. com Twit­ter: @ sun­time­so­bits George VI of the United Kingdom · Chicago · Greenland · Robert Wadlow · Illinois · Boston · Massachusetts · Europe · European Union · Chicago Metropolitan Area, Illinois · Centennial Park · Florida · Cape Town · Winston Spencer-Churchill · Shermerville, IL · North Chicago, IL · Rosalind Franklin · Peoria · Wilmette · Mulberry · Mulberry · Winston-Salem · Abraham Lincoln · Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Thanks to the work of Ge­orge Gepp­ner, a mu­seum in North Chicago has fish­skin slippers from Green­land, “lily feet” shoes used in Chi­nese foot- bind­ing and a size- 35 boot made for Robert Wad­low, the 8- foot, 11- inch “Al­ton Gi­ant” from down­state Illi­nois who died in 1940 but still holds the Guin­ness record for world’s tallest man.

Mr. Gepp­ner, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Dr. Wil­liam M. Scholl Col­lege of Po­di­atric Medicine, died Jan. 14 at 95.

He helped es­tab­lish the Feet First Mu­seum at the col­lege, which is part of Ros­alind Franklin Uni­ver­sity of Medicine and Sci­ence in North Chicago. In ad­di­tion to an­tique footwear, the mu­seum tells the story of Scholl, a foot care pi­o­neer who built an em­pire on fallen arches, corns, cal­luses and bunions that re­mains a well- known brand.

Mr. Gepp­ner grew up in Bos­ton dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. His mother, Kitty, wid­owed when he was 7, had to work mul­ti­ple jobs to feed three kids. So young Ge­orge learned “29 dif­fer­ent ways to make ham­burger,” said his brother Ed.

The fru­gal­ity of that era made him a cau­tious spender. At the Scholl Col­lege, he cul­ti­vated bene­fac­tors whose do­na­tions helped stu­dents grad­u­ate with less debt, ac­cord­ing to the school’s dean, Nancy Pars­ley.

“He re­ally was pas­sion­ate about that,” Pars­ley said. “I give him so much credit and so much grat­i­tude for es­tab­lish­ing a strong stu­dent schol­ar­ship pro­gram that con­tin­ues to as­sist to­day’s stu­dents.”

Un­der Mr. Gepp­ner’s lead­er­ship, the col­lege launched pro­grams to help the home­less, send­ing stu­dents and fac­ulty to shel­ters and free clin­ics. They trimmed toe­nails and cal­luses, handed out shoes, socks and foot cream and checked feet for se­ri­ous health prob­lems.

“He was very proud of that, and they would do do­na­tions of shoes to the home­less also,” said his daugh­ter Theresa Gepp­ner.

Ed Gepp­ner fo­cused on his brother’s hu­mil­ity in a eu­logy about Mr. Gepp­ner, say­ing, “You were al­ways the same per­son as a col­lege pres­i­dent that you were as a col­lege stu­dent.”

Af­ter high school in Mas­sachusetts, Mr. Gepp­ner stud­ied to be­come an X- ray tech­ni­cian. That led him to be as­signed to the Army Med­i­cal Corps in Europe in World War II. Af­ter­ward, he used the GI bill to come to Chicago and en­roll in what’s now called the Dr. Wil­liam M. Scholl Col­lege of Po­di­atric Medicine.

He’d done Army ba­sic train­ing near Peo­ria, where he met Mar­jorie A. Gorham. They re­con­nected when he re­turned to Illi­nois for col­lege, got mar­ried and raised five chil­dren in Peo­ria, where he prac­ticed po­di­a­try for 30 years.

In 1980, he re­turned to his alma mater as vice pres­i­dent, then served as pres­i­dent of the Scholl Col­lege from 1982 to 1990 and re­mained there till 2003 as a his­to­rian and ar­chiv­ist, Pars­ley said.

He saw po­di­a­try ex­pand from its fo­cus on foot prob­lems of grow­ing young­sters and se­nior cit­i­zens. Af­ter run­ning be­came a pop­u­lar pas­time in the 1970s and 1980s, “He said [ the pro­fes­sion] was just so in­ter­est­ing, and he was deal­ing with all ages,” his daugh­ter said. “It changed po­di­a­try, sports medicine.”

Mr. Gepp­ner also wrote books, in­clud­ing “Dr. Scholl — Man or Myth” and “Po­di­atric Medicine and the Dr. Wil­liam M. Scholl Col­lege.”

For more than 60 years, he kept fit by play­ing ten­nis, of­ten at Peo­ria Park District courts, and later, when the Gepp­n­ers moved to the Chicago area, at the East Bank Club and Wil­mette’s Cen­ten­nial Park and Re­cre­ation Com­plex. His love of the sport dated to his teens, when he was de­jected over fail­ing to make the high school foot­ball team. His mother “went out the next day and got him a ten­nis racket, and his love of ten­nis came from there,” Theresa Gepp­ner said.

Mr. Gepp­ner played ten­nis un­til his knees re­belled in his early 80s, then he took up golf, even scor­ing a holein- one once at the Reser­va­tion Golf Course in Mulberry, Florida, ac­cord­ing to his brother.

He never lost his “pahk the cah” Bos­ton ac­cent, nor his deep- seated ha­tred of Brus­sels sprouts. “They were fed Brus­sels sprouts in the war so much,” his daugh­ter said.

He loved fam­ily re­unions on Cape Cod, a good ci­gar and a cold Bud­weiser. He en­joyed books about Win­ston Churchill and Abra­ham Lin­coln, even dress­ing up as Lin­coln and giv­ing an an­nual speech to res­i­dents when he and his wife moved into Covenant Vil­lage of North­brook.

Mr. Gepp­ner’s wife died in 2012. In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter and brother, he is sur­vived by daugh­ters Nancy Gepp­ner Mueller and Patti Gepp­ner Os­tran­der, sons Michael and Robert, 10 grand­chil­dren and three great- grand­daugh­ters. Ser­vices have been held.

 ??  ?? Ge­orge Gepp­ner at the for­mer lo­ca­tion of the Dr. Wil­liam M. Scholl Col­lege of Po­di­atric Medicine on North Dear­born Street. | SUP­PLIED PHO­TOS
Ge­orge Gepp­ner at the for­mer lo­ca­tion of the Dr. Wil­liam M. Scholl Col­lege of Po­di­atric Medicine on North Dear­born Street. | SUP­PLIED PHO­TOS
 ??  ?? Ge­orge Gepp­ner met Mar­jorie A. Gorham when he was in Army ba­sic train­ing in Peo­ria. The two ( here on their wed­ding day) went on to raise five chil­dren in Peo­ria, where he prac­ticed po­di­a­try for 30 years.
Ge­orge Gepp­ner met Mar­jorie A. Gorham when he was in Army ba­sic train­ing in Peo­ria. The two ( here on their wed­ding day) went on to raise five chil­dren in Peo­ria, where he prac­ticed po­di­a­try for 30 years.

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