Dr. & Child Reunion
Pediatricians become accustomed to hearing how their former patients, now grown up, are doing in their adult lives. “Sometimes sad things happen, but the beautiful things happen much more often,” says Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Gregory ’38, who retired in 1988 after forty-three years as a pediatrician in Arlington, Massachusetts.
When Gregory, once called “the pediatric fairy godmother” of Arlington, recently heard about former patient Elizabeth Meade, well, the outcome definitely fell into the beautiful category.
Twenty years ago, the local Arlington newspaper was doing a story on Gregory, who had been selected as a Citizen of the Year for her numerous community and professional achievements. The paper needed a photo; Gregory told the reporter that she was at that moment leaving her Massachusetts Avenue home/office for the Boston Lying-In, where an hours-old newborn needed her first pediatric examination. “I told them that if the photographer wanted to troop down there with me, that would be fine.” There at the hospital, the photographer took the accompanying photograph of Dr. Gregory holding a seven-hour-old baby girl. The date was February 26, 1978.
Gregory admits that she had an ulterior motive in suggesting a photo with this particular newborn. The baby’s mother and father, Arlington natives Phyllis and Jeffrey Meade, had themselves been patients of Gregory’s years before. And the baby’s maternal grandparents, Richard and Gerry Malatesta of Arlington, were both 1946 graduates of Bates.
The baby, named Elizabeth by happy coincidence, was a patient of Gregory’s only for a short time before the Meade family moved from Arlington. Gregory didn’t hear about her former patient until 1996, when a note arrived from Gerry Malatesta, Elizabeth’s grandmother. She asked if Gregory minded that Elizabeth, now eighteen years old, was enclosing the baby- and-doctor photograph with her college application – to Bates. “She said, ‘I hope you don’t mind,'” Gregory remembers. “I was delighted! It was very fun, very pleasant.”
In response to the application question, “Why, in particular, do you wish to attend Bates?” Meade noted the relatives who had attended Bates and wrote, “Perhaps you can say I was accepted to Bates on the day I was born. The Bates tradition was in my genes…. Even my former pediatrician attended the school!”
Elizabeth Meade had a chance to renew acquaintances with Gregory last fall at the Alumni House. (Gregory, a former Bates Trustee, was in town for a Reunion planning session; she’s co- chair of 1938’s 60th Reunion Gift Committee.) “Dr. Gregory’s name was brought up so often in my house when I was growing up,” Meade said. “When I saw her again at Bates, everything that I had heard about her was confirmed: she was extremely vibrant and witty. With her incredible energy and obvious zest for life, Dr. Gregory could easily keep up with students at Bates today!”
Dr. Gregory once said that “Bates is where my life began. Before that I was the daughter of my parents – helped, nourished, directed, encouraged, pushed by them. At Bates, I became an individual who recognized my own ambitions and abilities and knew where I wanted to go.”
Elizabeth Meade ’00 heard that statement related to her just after a tough series of final exams. She considered the sentiment and responded: “I feel that I have always been an individual. However, Bates has given me the confidence that comes with independence. At Bates you are not just another face in a sea of L.L. Bean jackets. Professors make an effort to know your name, they respect individual opinions, and they encourage each student to excel.”
- H. Jay Burns