Joseph F. Nee, President of the National Foundation-March of Dimes, presented these memories of Apgar at a memorial service
held at Riverside Church in New York on September 15, 1974.
Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
6 (233,106 Bytes)
1974-09-15 (September 15, 1974)
Nee, Joseph F.
National Foundation-March of Dimes
Original Repository: Mount Holyoke College. Archives and Special Collections. L. Stanley James Papers [MS 0782]
Box 2, Folder 2: Correspondence about Apgar 1973-1975
Reproduced with permission of the March of Dimes.
Second Career: The National Foundation-March of Dimes, 1959-1974
Memorial Service for Dr. Virginia Apgar
Riverside Church--September 15, 1974
By Mr. Joseph F. Nee, President
The National Foundation-March of Dimes
Virginia Apgar was simply--and genuinely--interested in everyone and everything. Someone once described her ability to connect
instantly with individuals and with audiences as "uncanny". There was nothing uncanny about it for she never met a
stranger. She valued experience with another human being, whatever his or her strengths or weaknesses, more than she cherished
ideas or music or any of her myriad other enthusiasms.
One of her highest compliments was to call a colleague a "people doctor". She had great respect for the laboratory
scientist, but greater empathy for those who dealt personally with patients in need of help. It was obvious during her recent
sabbatical at Johns Hopkins that, although the challenge of learning more about genetics was mentally stimulating, her greatest
satisfaction came from the opportunity to work directly with the children and families who brought their problems to the Moore
I like to think that a voluntary health agency, more than many institutions, attracts people who share a similar orientation
toward others, albeit to varying lesser degrees. And that the grantees, medical advisors, staff, volunteers and beneficiaries
of the National Foundation-March of Dimes formed a natural constituency for Virginia--one which not only appreciated her unique
qualities, but also satisfied her own need to be needed by her fellow man.
Certainly all of us expressed our needs to her time and again, making prodigious demands on her time and energies. And she
responded in kind until her life became one long juggling act to fit speeches and site visits, professional consultations
and chapter meetings, media interviews and international congresses into her impossible schedule.
It was often difficult to tie her down long enough to arrange a staff meeting at which her presence was essential because
she was always more concerned with the problems of say, a child in Fargo, North Dakota, than she was with administration in
Her wide-ranging personal interests sometimes conflicted, too. She always carried an international directory of amateur chamber
music players to contact for an evening of music wherever she went. Before breakfast, she might have a date to bicycle on
the boardwalk with a colleague's children. On a free afternoon, she'd take off to visit a former student, call on
the aged mother of a friend, and look up the nearest flying instructor to add another lesson to the log she had tucked in
If she was needed for an emergency decision before the next scheduled event in the Hague or Phoenix or White Plains, locating
her could be quite a venture.
Her zest for life and her ability to communicate on every level gave her high visibility. She drew and held the attention
of writers, broadcasters, talk-show hosts and their audiences like a magnet. Riveting them with a quip, she would proceed
to provide more effective public--and professional--education than all the learned tracts, leaflets or films we could produce.
We often complained that she talked too fast--but she got the message across.
Most of us are familiar with the chronology and many revealing anecdotes of Virginia's life. Filching a shelf from a telephone
booth because it was the right wood for the back of her first hand-crafted viola . . . carrying a child who feared elevators
down the stairs from his hospital bed to surgery . . . encouraging Mount Holyoke girls to go into medicine, then proudly following
each career . . . carrying instruments in her handbag to enable her to meet any medical emergency anywhere . . . violently
rooting for the Mets in a competing team's ballpark . . .
Everyone who came into her orbit--and that includes an untold number of airline passengers who found themselves seated next
to her as she crisscrossed this country--can interweave his own personal thread into that expansive tapestry in praise of
The breadth of her interests and the depth of her concern for people made Virginia inestimably valuable to all the institutions
Because of her drive and vision, the National Foundation has made great progress toward its goals in research and service,
and in the resources to make them possible. To our National Foundation family, she was--and will always be--not the "legend"
that she hated to be called, but a symbol of our aspirations that is very much alive.
One of our volunteers said it all a few years ago:
"When she talks to you, you know she's talking to you--more important, listening to you--and doesn't have her
eye or her mind on something over your shoulder. Her warmth and interest give you the feeling that her arms are around you,
even though she never touches you. Dr. Apgar is an emotional experience."