Most Whitworthians – even those who grew up in hard times – lived in conventional houses, though those houses may have been tiny or rundown or both. During the 1930s and ’40s, Grant Rodkey and his brothers occupied a root cellar near campus that had been brought to Spokane from the family farm and included little more than a table, a stove and a washbasin. Electricity came from an extension cord that ran from a nearby house. For nearly a decade, that rustic abode was home sweet home to Grant, ’39, and his brothers, Lee, ’42, George, ’45, and John, ’47, as successively each attended Whitworth. Their humble beginnings fueled the Rodkeys’ later accomplishments and their determination to succeed.
In September 1935, when their father was seriously injured, Grant withdrew from Whitworth to help support the family of seven. He worked as a lumberjack and as a hospital orderly, and he learned the skill of barbering before returning to Whitworth and graduating in 1939. He then enrolled in Harvard Medical School, where he received his M.D. in 1943. (Fifty-five years later, he discovered that he had posted the highest score in the nation on the medical aptitude test.)
Rodkey served his country in World War II, stationed in China for three years as an army surgeon. He was a visiting surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he completed both his surgical and orthopedic residencies in 1950. He is an author; he returned to Harvard Medical School as an instructor; he served as a delegate for the American Medical Association; and he was president of the Boston Medical Library, in 1997, and of the Massachusetts Medical Society, in 1980. As the chair of Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Rodkey was also influential in national and New England medical circles. For a number of years he was one of the oldest practicing surgeons in the U.S., if not the oldest.
Each year the Massachusetts Medical Society awards the Grant V. Rodkey Award to a physician who has made outstanding contributions to medical education and to medical students. Whitworth named Rodkey its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2002.