Demuth ’51 Honored for Service – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Demuth ’51 Honored for Service

This summer, Dr. Robert Demuth ’51 was presented with the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Trustee Community Service Award in recognition of a nearly 40-year career distinguished by dedication to impoverished individuals throughout the world. The 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, and was given to Demuth during the Alumni/ae Summer Gathering held in Portland, Ore. Demuth is a surgeon, who has traveled to 28 different countries performing plastic surgeries for those without access to reliable healthcare. In presenting the award, Director of Leadership Giving Casey Peterson said, “Dr. Robert Demuth is a healer and a hope maker – not just for his patients here in the United States, but for thousands of others across the globe that need surgery – most often children – but who have no access to the required services or the money to pay for treatment.” At Hobart, Demuth majored in chemistry and was a Druid, as well as a member of Chimera, Orange Key and the Board of Control. He a member of the football, basketball and lacrosse teams who captained the lacrosse team through some of its most successful years. He was twice recognized as an All American. Following graduation, Demuth joined the U.S. Navy. He spent three years on the ocean during the Korean War as a lieutenant and chief engineer. In March of 1955, Demuth was accepted to the University of Rochester, thanks in part to a recommendation from Theodore Tellefsen Odell ’20, and entered the university’s medical program in the fall of 1955. Upon graduation from medical school, Demuth entered into a two-year internship at the University of Rochester with a plastic surgeon, and soon after served five years in general surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hospital. He started his own practice in Erie, Pa., and shortly after began his steadfast career in international service with a volunteer trip on the SS Hope in Brazil where he performed daily reconstructive surgeries. He left his practice in 1977 to pursue a career in academia as an associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. During his four years in Dallas, Demuth also served as staff surgeon at Parkland Hospital Center, Baylor Medical Center, and the Children’s Medical Center. He then went on to join the faculty at the University of Oregon and helped to found the school’s plastic surgery program, which he continued to run until he left the university in 1991. Demuth joined Northwest Medical Teams, now known as Medical Teams International, traveling numerous times to Mexico and Romania with a team and as a primary consultant to perform surgeries for those with no access to healthcare. He also served as a consultant to Smile Train, an international organization providing cleft palate surgery to those in need in Hungary and Bulgaria. With Surgical Aid to Children of the World, he performed surgeries on impoverished people living in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, and with Rotoplast, a project of Rotarians seeking to join medical and non-medical volunteers to provide resources and volunteer services, Demuth operated on patients on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. For the past 15 years, Demuth has made numerous trips to Chile, where he has worked tirelessly to form multi-disciplinary committees to work with cleft palate patients. Following a cleft palate procedure, children need intensive follow-up appointments with pathologists, audiologists and dentists. Demuth believes that above all, quality care must be provided to patients who lack the resources for such important services. Demuth made his last trip to Chile in February of 2012 at the age of 82. “Imagine…the tears of grateful joy in the eyes of parents whose children would have lived lives in misery if not for his compassionate intervention,” said Peterson, presenting Demuth with the award. “We honor him here tonight as a shining example of someone who continues to live a life of consequence.” Demuth remains an active member of the East Portland Rotary Club, which he joined in 1984. From 1989 to 1993, Demuth served on the Hobart and William Smith Board of Trustees. He is also a past member of the Hobart College Alumni Council. He has served as president of the American Association for Hand Surgery. In 2006, Demuth was inducted into the Hobart College Athletics Hall of Fame.