UNMC History 101 - The dean of deans

by John Schleicher, McGoogan Library of Medicine | April 02, 2013

Image with caption: C.W.M. Poynter's portrait (1944) currently hangs in the library on the eighth floor of Wittson Hall.

C.W.M. Poynter's portrait (1944) currently hangs in the library on the eighth floor of Wittson Hall.

Charles William McCorkle Poynter was born in Eureka, Ill., in 1875, son of William and Maria (McCorkle) Poynter. As a child, Poynter moved west with his family to frontier Nebraska, where his father later served as the 10th governor (1899-1901). Poynter graduated from Albion High School in 1892, and prior to attending college he taught school in Boone County.

He earned a B.S. from the University of Nebraska in 1898, and an M.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1902. He served as an intern at Bellevue Hospital, New York, and Lee's Clinic and Cook County Hospital, Chicago. He did postgraduate study in Vienna from 1907 to 1908 and at Harvard University in 1912.

Dr. Poynter practiced medicine in Lincoln from 1903 to 1911. After the Omaha Medical College affiliated with the University of Nebraska in 1902, Dr. Poynter taught students completing their first two years of basic science study in Lincoln. In 1914, when all four years of medical instruction were moved to Omaha, Dr. Poynter became chairman of the anatomy department. He continued as professor of anatomy and chairman of the department until his retirement from the college in 1946. Dr. Poynter was considered an outstanding professor of anatomy.

picture disc.
Poynter in 1902

Dr. Poynter became acting dean of the medical college in 1929, and dean in 1930. He continued in that position for 16 years. He was a basic scientist who devoted his talents to teaching and administration of medical education. From 1946 to 1950, Dr. Poynter was dean emeritus and director of anatomical research. An honorary doctor of science degree was conferred on him by the University of Nebraska in 1947.

Upon his death in 1950, a memorial in his honor said in part: "He was a friend and confidant of the 1,800 men and women who graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine during his time as dean. He was beloved by students and faculty alike because of his wise advice given in a kindly, philosophical, good humored way. His advice was sought and respected in many civic and medical affairs, and his name will live on."

Dr. Poynter's gentle, quietly good-humored and sympathetic nature won him many friends throughout the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, a lasting tribute to a great teacher and leader. In 1970, the College of Medicine's first building at 42nd and Dewey, built in 1913 and for many years known as North Laboratory Building, was named in his honor.

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