Dr. N. William Wawro '34, Gifted Surgeon, Volunteer, and Dad, Continues to Inspire
Mark Wawro learned about giving at his parents’ knees. His mother, Judith, has immersed herself in public service and philanthropic endeavors all her life. And his dad, the late Dr. N. William (Bill) Wawro ’34, always maintained that professional success carried with it a responsibility for public service. To that end, Bill—Connecticut’s first surgical oncologist—served as president of the Connecticut Division of the American Cancer Society (receiving its Bronze medal for distinguished service), volunteered on the hospital ship USS Hope, and worked with Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné, Gabon. For low-income patients, he performed surgeries for free or a reduced fee.
And he never forgot Brown. Of his seven children, five—Peter ’70, David ’73, Mark ’75, Gillian ’78, and Geoffrey ’83—followed him to College Hill. “He was very proud to have graduated from Brown,” says Mark. “It gave him a great education and the University’s rich tradition of public service meshed perfectly with his own philosophy.”
Brown made a difference for me, and I’m thrilled to be in the position to be able to give back something. — Mark Wawro '75
“My dad was 16 when he came to Brown and money was tight,” continues Mark. “It was only thanks to financial aid and the help of his roommate’s family, the Lowenthals, that he was able to attend at all. So he impressed on everybody in the family that wherever you go to school and however it gets paid for—even if you pay for it yourself—you need to give something back because tuition only covers a portion of the cost of your education. To ensure that others had the same benefit of the financial assistance he received from Brown, he repaid his scholarship assistance when he was financially able to.”
“My family chose to honor his name by establishing the N. William Wawro Family President’s Scholarship back in 2006. Recently, my wife, Melanie Gray, and I found ourselves in a position to do more, so we raised it to the level of a Chancellor’s Scholarship. Brown made a difference for me, and I’m thrilled to be in the position to be able to give back something.”
It seems that a passion for giving back is continuing with the family’s scholarship recipient, too. Christina Stubbe ’10, a religious studies and political science double-concentrator, has won a two-year position in the prestigious Teach For America program. Typically, these teachers lead their students to significant academic achievement despite the challenges of poverty and the limited capacity of their school systems. “I’m hoping to help fix the achievement gap,” says Christina. “Teach For America is a highly competitive program and its graduates have gone on to do fantastic things.”
In a message given to their scholarship recipients, the Wawro family writes this: “We hope you will develop the same strong attachment to Brown that our father had, and will do what you can to pass the benefits of your education on to others.”
She is. And chances are that others will, too, thanks to the example of Dr. Wawro, an extraordinary man.
This story originally appeared on the Boldly Brown: Campaign for Academic Enrichment website in June 2010.
Written by Catharine Beattie
Photo, bottom, by Catharine Beattie