Ruth Fredericks, Millsaps College class of 1980, attributes one Millsaps professor in particular for setting her on the path to a career in medicine. That professor is Dr. James McKeown, who taught biology at Millsaps for 48 years from August 1962 to May 2011.
Fredericks, a successful neuro-oncologist known for her devotion to her patients and her profession, received the 2018 Millsaps Distinguished Alumna Award. During the recent Alumni Awards ceremony, she announced the establishment of the James McKeown Endowment in Biology as her way of honoring her beloved professor and mentor.
Fredericks is grateful to McKeown for inspiring not only her, but also her son, Andrew, class of 2010, to pursue a career in medicine. Andrew came to Millsaps set on entering law school. Fredericks convinced him to take one class with Dr. McKeown, and from there Andrew changed his major to biology and decided to become a physician. Ruth’s daughter-in-law, Katherine Nicholas Fredericks (class of 2011) also majored in biology at Millsaps.
Knowing that McKeown impacted the lives of many others, Fredericks hopes other alumni who studied under him at Millsaps will join her with gifts to the McKeown Endowment. In its first years, the fund will support scholarships for students majoring in biology. If the fund reaches $300,000 within five years, it will be converted to a faculty fellowship that supports the professional development of a faculty member in the Millsaps biology department, ensuring that the standard of excellence in teaching for which McKeown is known continues for generations to come.
“I am just overwhelmed,” says McKeown, in response to Fredericks’ gift. “I love liberal arts education, that’s what I was all about. I love the college and I love to interact with students.”
Reflecting on the time he has known Fredericks, McKeown says, “As a student, Ruth was incredibly bright and energetic—full of life and personality. As a physician, she loves her patients, as most physicians do, but her patients also love her. She can walk into the room and you just feel better. It’s just remarkable. Ruth honors the college for what she is, and she represents all the college wants its students to be—which is well versed in the liberal arts, which she applies to her field.”