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Doisy College of Health Sciences Secures First Endowed Professorship in Its History

Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences has announced the establishment of the college’s first endowed professorship. The Sr. Mary Imelda Pingel Endowed Professorship in Physical Therapy was made possible by a $500,000 gift to the college from an anonymous donor.

Physical therapy students

Physical therapy students practice the techniques they learn at SLU. A new endowed professorship, the first in college history, honors the legacy of innovation and educational rigor that has been the program's hallmark since its founding in 1933. SLU photo

SLU was among the first Jesuit institutions to offer a degree in physical therapy and continues to have a one of the nation’s highly ranked programs. Since its founding in 1933, the program in physical therapy has a long history of education and leadership. Pingel was the department’s founding chairperson and, through her tireless efforts, formed the foundation of physical therapy at SLU.

Pingel, a Franciscan Sister of Mary, became the director of the physical therapy  program after earning her bachelor's degree in physical in 1942 and pursuing clinical work at the Firmin Desloge Hospital - now SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. While working in the clinical setting, Pingel treated patients suffering from polio and opened a cerebral palsy and rehabilitation center. She would go on to earn a master's degree from SLU in 1969 and served as chair until 1977. During her years at SLU, Pingel wrote Physical Therapy at Saint Louis University - History and Memoirs.

Pingel died at age 95 in 2006 and colleagues credited her with laying the foundation for the program's success.

The professorship will be housed in the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training and geared toward teaching and research in the Physical Therapy program.

Tricia Austin, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training noted that the investment in the department and its Physical Therapy Program will help them continue their commitments to supporting and nurturing an intellectually rigorous and ethically sound academic community.

“We are most honored and humbled to receive this generous gift,” Austin said. “It is a time of excitement and gratitude, particularly as we celebrate our University’s 200-year history.”

 “The endowed professorship will allow us to recruit and recognize highly regarded faculty who are leaders in advancing the physical therapy profession,” she continued. “The endowed professorship will complement our highly talented and engaged faculty.”

Mardell Wilson, Ed.D., dean of Doisy College of Health Sciences, also spoke of the opportunities that come with an endowed professorship for the Physical Therapy Program and for the college.

“Securing the college’s first endowed professorship is a wonderful testament to the fantastic work being done in the program in physical therapy,” Wilson said. “Thanks to the remarkable generosity of this donor, we will be able to further elevate the profile of our college as we continue to advance research and its impact on the discipline and those we serve.”

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences offers degrees in physical therapy and athletic training, biomedical laboratory science, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, health sciences, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy, and physician assistant education. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.