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Surgical Reminiscence
March 1, 2005

Loyal Davis’ Honorary Fellowship

Arch Surg. 2005;140(3):313. doi:10.1001/archsurg.140.3.313

Dr Loyal Davis, distinguished professor of surgery at Northwestern University, past president of the American College of Surgeons, and longtime editor of Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics, the predecessor to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, received many honors during his distinguished surgical career but never an honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. However, near the end of his career in 1980, he received word that he had been elected to receive its honorary Fellowship. The date of his investiture was to be February 14, 1981, in Dublin—a day that is the anniversary of the Irish Charter and the only day on which honorary Fellowships are presented. On such occasions, all recipients must be physically present. The date was also about 6 weeks after his stepson-in-law, Ronald Reagan, had been inaugurated as President. Loyal was, of course, very excited. The health of his wife, Edith, would not permit the trip, so Loyal asked his son Richard, a neurosurgeon from Philadelphia, to accompany him. Just before their planned departure for Dublin, however, Loyal became ill and could not make the trip. This was very disappointing as it meant that the earliest the ceremony could be rescheduled was a year later, and his health might not allow it. Loyal’s stepdaughter, Nancy Reagan, was equally disappointed for him. Several months later, though, she had a brilliant suggestion: would the Irish College be willing to present her stepfather for honorary Fellowship at the Irish embassy in Washington, DC, since it is considered to be on Irish soil? The Irish College agreed. Thus, on July 14, 1981, 5 months after the original date, the Irish embassy in Washington prepared for a momentous occasion, namely, the conferring of an honorary Fellowship in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on Loyal Davis before President and Mrs Ronald Reagan, the US Cabinet, the American Honorary Fellows of the Irish College, and a few friends, which included my wife and me. When I showed my wife, Ginny, the initial invitation (which did not mention all of the social events), she asked, “We’re not going all the way to Washington just for that, are we?”