Dr. Kenneth H. Spitzer ’55 was presented with the Hobart and William Smith Community Service Award on Thursday, Feb. 10. This prestigious award is given to members of the HWS family who have shown extraordinary commitment as volunteers, serving their local communities and society as a whole. An ophthalmologist, Spitzer has traveled at his own expense to underdeveloped countries to teach fellow doctors how to perform laser surgery on eyes.
Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 and President Mark D. Gearan presented Spitzer with the award at a ceremony held at the Erie Canal Museum, in Syracuse, N.Y. Spitzer’s family and friends joined HWS alums and parents in honoring his dedication and achievement.
“We are here today to celebrate Dr. Spitzer’s commitment as a global citizen,” said Zupan. “In the early ‘90s Dr. Spitzer went abroad to Vellore, India volunteering his time to instruct local residents how to carry out surgical procedures with their newly given technology. He spent hours each day at The Christian Medical College and Hospital going over every technique for each and every possible scenario until he knew that every one of his pupils could act appropriately and confidently on their own. It was not long until the proper procedures had been circulated throughout the medical community of India and all thanks to Dr. Spitzer.”
Spitzer and other U.S. eye doctors have taught techniques to Indian medical colleagues, going so far as to donate equipment to upgrade their operating rooms. In more sparse conditions in Africa, Spitzer has performed cataract surgery under trees.
A loyal alumnus, Spitzer is one of three brothers from Skaneateles who became doctors after attending Hobart College. He has headed the Distinguished Professor Committee for the Hobart Alumni Association, and is a member of the Statesmen Athletic Association. While a student, he was a Druid, class vice president, and inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
He went on to receive his Doctor of Medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where he also met his wife and lifelong companion Lois. He became a clinical professor of ophthalmology as well as the admission committee chair at Upstate Medical Center located in Syracuse, N.Y. He also served as president of Eye Bank of Central New York, set up a children’s clinic in Cazenovia, N.Y., and continues to offer support to refugee families through Interfaith Works Agency. He is active in his church and volunteered for youth activities when his four girls were younger. Spitzer lives in Fayetteville with his wife.
“We are fortunate to have Dr. Spitzer as a member of the Hobart and William Smith community. His life’s work continues to be an example of the impact that one person can have on our world,” said Gearan.