Focus on Supporters: Dr. Russell Newkirk

By Wilma Jozwiak

Dr. Russ Newkirk finds his greatest joy in being of service to others.

Two golf carts donated by Dr. Russell Newkirk help Ed Miller maintain the Native Plant Trail, as well as open the Arboretum to people with limited mobility.

That intention was what led him into the practice of medicine. Russ retired a few years ago from St. Peter’s Hospital, where he spent 43 years, beginning as a 19-year-old drawing blood during summer vacations and then as a medical doctor, serving 23 years as chief of pathology and laboratory medicine. Russ believes in the power of connection when it comes to the practice of medicine. He sometimes regrets that the field has become much more efficient in the delivery of potential interventions, but possibly less wise in its insistence on extending life for days or weeks at the loss of quality of life. He continues to share his wealth of knowledge through consultations, and perhaps most meaningfully to him, through medical missions to Haiti, where people struggle to manage lifestyle-dependent diseases like hypertension.

Russ’ passions don’t end there though. He is also an amateur astronomer: show him a dark sky (like the ones at Landis), and he can read it like a book. Russ also knows the value -- and the joy -- of physical exertion. He loves to golf, and he has run the Boston Marathon as well as a number of 10Ks and mini-marathons. But pushed to make a choice among his athletic pursuits, he’d choose ice hockey in a heartbeat. Russ is in a hockey league in the Capital Region and practices a couple of times a week when the rinks are iced.

Russ discovered Landis Arboretum through Board President Jim Paley. Russ and Jim became friends in the fourth grade and have remained close ever since. Russ likes to make Jim’s vacation home in Thailand a winter stop in his perambulations around the globe. (Travel is another passion.) His discussions with Jim about finding ways to extend access to Landis for people with limited mobility convinced him to donate a golf cart to the Arboretum. Since then, he has given a second golf cart, which has not only allowed more access for some Arboretum visitors, but also has made it possible for Native Plant Trail Curator Ed Miller, now in his 90s, to tend and expand his Trail with less exertion.

A fortunate friendship, then, between Jim Paley and Russ Newkirk, and others have benefited from their mutual dedication to Landis.

Fall 2015

Volume 33 , Number 4

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