It’s been about six years since LMU first announced its plans to pursue what is know the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. I still remember one of the most interesting tidbits about the University that was unearthed in the planning for the announcement was the historical timeline for the first medical school run by LMU.
I was reminded of that history recently, when Oliver Springs native Dean Ford contacted me. Ford, who had no connection to LMU, purchased a lot of frames at an auction years ago. He said he assumed they were all blank and never went through them all. When he finally did, years later, he found a large diploma from the Medical College of Lincoln Memorial University for one Dr. Stanley Nease. The diploma was dated 1915, which would make it one of the last class years to graduate from the Medical College of Lincoln Memorial University.
The school dates back even earlier than LMU as it was founded in 1889 as the Tennessee Medical College. It was a private medical college located in Knoxville, Tenn. It was one of 133 medical schools in operation in the United States by 1890. Following a period of time, the school fell on hard times financially and started looking to align itself with larger schools. TMC approached LMU with an articulation agreement to make TMC the Medical Department of LMU in 1905. A contract was affirmed and ratified in 1906. By 1909, TMC was sold to LMU and became the Medical College of LMU.
The financial troubles continued and by 1914, LMU’s board arranged for the sale of the school building and associated hospital. It concluded operation at the end of the school year and made arrangements for its students to complete their coursework elsewhere. Dr. Nease was among those who completed their degrees after the school was shuttered. Included in the back of the frame Ford found was a letter from the University of Tennessee certifying that Nease had in fact completed his studies.
After his discovery, Ford tried to find a living relative of Dr. Nease to give the diploma to. After a exhaustive search, he contacted his friend John Rice Irwin, the founder of the Museum of Appalachia, to see if he would be interested in adding the diploma to the museum’s collection. Irwin, a longtime friend of LMU, referred Ford to the University and last week I met him at the LMU-Cedar Bluff Extended Learning Site. He generously gave LMU the diploma, which is nearing 100 years old. It had been damaged by water and time.
I turned the Nease diploma over to University Archivist Michelle Ganz. She indicated that the document was likely beyond repair for display, but it was still an important piece of LMU history that would be saved in our collection. When she returned to the archives she discovered that our collection already boasted several duplicate diplomas or diplomas that were never picked up from the Medical College at LMU from that time period.
My newest project will be to take one or two from the archives and prepare them for exhibit at LMU-DCOM. On the heels of the Inaugural Class graduation in May, I think it would be great to display one of the first LMU-DCOM diplomas alongside one of the last Medical College at LMU diplomas.