By Dennis E. Park, MA, ’07-hon
For 90 consecutive years, the Alumni Association, School of Medicine of Loma Linda University has published the JOURNAL. The 16-page progenitor of our current JOURNAL was dated January–February, 1931. The first issue was a leap of faith for the Alumni Association that had traditionally relied on “circular letters” to communicate with the alumni. The 67-member class of 1930 increased the graduate total to 502, with 500 living alumni. At that time, many alumni maintained addresses in California; other graduates, however, were leaving the state to practice in other parts of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. In addition, a number of alumni and their families were stationed in foreign countries such as Africa, Belgium, Bolivia, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Persia, and Peru. With this increase in numbers and widespread locations, the Alumni Association’s board concluded that the informal circular letters could no longer meet the needs of the ever-growing alumni community.
A new way of communicating with the College of Medical Evangelists alumni was desperately needed. The letter writing soon gave way to a new form of communication: “The JOURNAL of the Alumni Association College of Medical Evangelists,” which is known today as “The ALUMNI JOURNAL Alumni Association School of Medicine of Loma Linda University.”
The reasons the editors gave for producing a “magazine” were simple, straightforward, and forward thinking. 1) The mailing of circular letters had become a formidable task, 2) the Alumni Association “badly needed” a more efficient avenue of communication, 3) the publication’s success would depend on the alumni’s financial support, giving the editors (their fellow alumni) their whole-hearted support and encouragement, and 4) by incorporating the school’s name in its title, “The JOURNAL of the Alumni Association College of Medical Evangelists,” it would exemplify the character of the institution.
Of this challenge, Fred B. Moor ’20, then president of the Alumni Association, opined in Vol. 1, No. 1, that “[t]his magazine is not just a novelty. …Much of [our] communication can now be done through these columns.” In the first issue, the editorial board introduced the new publication to the readers who were asked “to bear with the mistakes, and constructive criticism will be most cheerfully received. Such criticism will be the greatest help we will have in improving each succeeding issue.”
With that inaugural issue, a new era of interacting with the alumni began. Today, in addition to the JOURNAL, the Alumni Association enjoys the capability, through social media, to communicate with the alumni in real time through Facebook and Instagram.
The following alumni, who have given countless hours in the production of the JOURNAL, reflect on the value they see in a magazine for alumni that tells their stories and the stories of their alma mater.
Mildred A. R. Stilson ’46, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 16, 2021, was a long-time editorial reader of the ALUMNI JOURNAL. When asked what she thought of the publication, she replied, “It is the string that draws us to our home, our alma mater. It is a special magazine that shares the important stories of our School of Medicine alumni and of our school. I look forward to each issue with anticipation and I would hate to go without it.” (Dr. Stilson’s uncle, Hubert O. Swartout ’33, was editor of the JOURNAL from 1944–1946).
Debra L. Stottlemyer ’86, president of the Alumni Association, 2020–2021, shared, “It has been a humbling experience to be your Alumni Association president during the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your stories and your experiences during this year have filtered back from around the world to home base here at Loma Linda. Inspiring stories which we have shared via Instagram, video, website posts, and above all, the JOURNAL. Communication is the glue which holds this community of healers together and it amazes me how consistently the JOURNAL has carried on the tradition of storytelling over the decades since it was first published. Much has changed in the past 90 years, but the power of stories to unite us, to heal us, to inspire us will never change. Thank you for continuing to create your unique life story as a healer by being His hands in the world. I look forward to hearing your story whether in the pages of the JOURNAL or at the feet of Jesus in the hopefully not-distant future.”
Henry K. Yeo ’68, editor 1990–2011, said, “I find the best communication from the Alumni Association to our medical graduates around the world continues to be the ALUMNI JOURNAL. The very first issue was a slim newsletter titled “The JOURNAL,” published in 1931. Ninety years later it is a full-color photo journal printed on slick paper featuring news and pictures of our alma mater and stories of alumni whose work has impacted academia, the practice of medicine, and the general social order. The ALUMNI JOURNAL is a major contribution to alumni loyalty and comradery.”
Donna L. Carlson ’69, editor 2012, wrote, “The ALUMNI JOURNAL is a historical record of individual alumni, the Alumni Association, and the School of Medicine of Loma Linda University. The JOURNAL is the glue that holds all of us together.”
Burton A. Briggs ’66, editor 2014–2019, said, “The editorial staff of the ALUMNI JOURNAL will attempt to foster pride and respect for our alma mater, encourage loyalty to the Alumni Association, share alumni news from and to our audience, and give appropriate recognition to our future alumni—the medical students. As time and technology change, the JOURNAL’s appearance will change, but the contents should [remain] informative, reflective, educational, and inspirational.”
In talking about this article, Dr. Briggs reminded me of a quote from the late Carrol S. Small ’34, editor 1975–1982 and 1988–1990: “The ALUMNI JOURNAL is committed to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, be we cannot tell the whole truth until we learn it—so tell us. So as alumni and readers, send ‘letters to the editor,’ contribute written and photographic submissions, and keep us posted on events related to alumni that we may not hear about.”
For 90 years the ALUMNI JOURNAL has served to connect, inform, and foster collaboration and will continue to do so long as our alumni engage with and contribute to “the string that draws us to our home, our alma mater.”
Mr. Park is the consulting historian for the JOURNAL and former executive director of the Alumni Association.