2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the graduation of Dr. Catharine Lealtad, Macalester’s first African American graduate. The late Dr. Lealtad earned a double major degree in chemistry and history in 1915 with highest honors.

After graduation, Dr. Lealtad taught for a year in Columbus, Ohio, and then moved to New York City to work for the YWCA and the Urban League. She was accepted into Cornell University’s medical school, but left shortly after her arrival due to the racial prejudice at Cornell. She went on to study medicine in Lyon, France, where she received her medical degree from the University of Paris in 1933 specializing in pediatrics.

When World War II began, Dr. Lealtad was commissioned as a major in the U.S. Army and went to Germany in 1945 to supervise medical services for children that had been displaced due to the war. One year later, she went to China with the U.S. Public Health Service to assist the Chinese doctors in fighting the cholera epidemic that was sweeping through China at that time.

Upon returning to the U.S. at the close of WWII, Dr. Lealtad worked at Sydenham Hospital, the first voluntarily interracial hospital in New York. Although Dr. Lealtad retired in 1979, she continued in her efforts to serve those who had limited access to medical care. She worked for two years at a mission hospital in Puerto Rico and for seven years at a free clinic for the underprivileged in Mexico City. In 1983, Dr. Lealtad created an endowed scholarship at Macalester College.

The only person to receive two honorary degrees from Macalester, Dr. Lealtad passed away in 1989. The Lealtad-Suzuki Center is named in her honor.

May 7 2015

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