When UMHB announced in March its plans to develop a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, it was good news for Texas health care providers, because the demand for physical therapists currently outpaces the number of Texas graduates moving into the profession.
But when alumna Dorothy McMeens ’89 heard the news, she was happy for a different reason: she realized that the program would offer the perfect opportunity to create a fitting tribute to her son, Christopher McMeens, whose career as an exercise physiologist was cut short when he died at the age of 28. When Dorothy and her husband, James, heard about the need for graduate student scholarships, they knew that they could honor Christopher’s commitment to helping the sick and injured by helping other young people prepare for careers in physical therapy.
The McMeens family’s connection to UMHB developed in an unexpected way. Dorothy was a “non-traditional” student when she enrolled at UMHB. Her husband’s career in the Army had kept the family on the move for many years. When James retired from the Army, the McMeens moved to Copperas Cove, and Dorothy decided it was time to build on the college work she had completed many years earlier. She finished her BS degree at UMHB in 1989, with a double major in biology and psychology.
The McMeens’ two sons had finished their educations and moved into their careers—Michael as a design engineer working with aircraft, and Christopher as an exercise physiologist in the cardiology department of a hospital in Lubbock. At 6’8”, Christopher’s size and strength worked to his advantage as he helped his patients, many of them men, recover from debilitating heart attacks and strokes. He was also an avid outdoorsman; and on May 6, 1992, he was enjoying a day off skydiving with friends when his chute failed to open, and he was tragically killed.
“We have great respect for UMHB and the standards it holds to. We know it is a place dedicated to growing members of the Body of Christ, and I believe that Christopher’s belief in loving and serving others would be part of the training that anyone would receive at UMHB.”
— Dorothy McMeens ’89
In the years following his death, Dorothy, James, and Michael thought about how to create a lasting tribute to Chris. The introduction of the physical therapy doctorate at UMHB provided the perfect opportunity.
“It is wonderful to be able to contribute to the beginning of this new program in physical therapy. To me it is exciting to think that Christopher will be contributing to the care of someone years from now through this scholarship for a physical therapy student. I can’t think of any better way to perpetuate a person’s memory than to contribute in their name to a well-principled education.”