When Dr. Perrin Smith graduated from the School of Medicine in 1964, he helped found a family birthright.
Two of his great-nieces are enrolled in the UMMC School of Medicine: Mary Grace Sessums, a third-year student, and Ann Tucker, an M4 and daughter of Dr. James Tucker, Class of '84.
Tucker welcomed her great-uncle back to the campus on Aug. 22, during the Office of Alumni Affairs' Medical Class Reunion Weekend at UMMC, where she was honored as a recipient of a Medical Reunion Scholarship.
Dr. Ed Hill of Tupelo, left, receives his Class of 1964 commemorative medal from Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, shortly before addressing his fellow alumni.
"She's tearing up the class," said Smith, a Columbus resident.
During a weekend highlighted by campus tours and a commemorative celebration of his graduating class, Smith was awash in the changes that have flooded the School of Medicine over the past 50 years.
For instance, in the official 1964 medical school portrait of 71 graduates, only two are women - the same number Smith's family, alone, has contributed to the current school. And a third has applied.
"I don't know where they get it," Smith said of the women in his family, "because all us boys are slow."
Smith and his classmates weren't the only ones honored. Graduates of the classes of '74, '84, '89, '94 and '04 were also recognized.
But as Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, said, "This is really about the Class of '64. The rest of you enjoy and hope you make it this far."
Dr. Edward Gore of Tupelo, Class of 1964, and his wife Claudia Gore enjoy a moment with friends.
To a luncheon gathering of about 70 people in the Student Union, Keeton, who is also the dean of the School of Medicine, summarized the Medical Center's growth since Smith and his cohorts roamed its halls.
Among the changes he cited: The Medical Center has 875 faculty members today, compared to 40 when the institution opened in 1955, a few years before Smith arrived.
1964 classmates, from left, Dr. A. Jerald Jackson of Hattiesburg, Dr. Edward Hill of Tupelo and Dr. Charles Aaron Hollingshead of Ellisville prepare to sit for a group portrait in the Old Capitol Museum.
More growth is coming, Keeton said, describing the nascent, $73 million medical school and the planned $150 million expansion of Batson Children's Hospital.
But the weekend was also a time to respect the past, especially during a reception at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, where 19 members of the class of '64 were on hand to be photographed and receive medallions honoring their golden anniversary.
Dr. James Stanford, left, and Dr. Barbara Goodman, share their memories about the Class of 1989.
Among those remembering their heyday was Dr. Ed Hill of Tupelo, former president of the American Medical Association.
"Why is it at reunions that everyone looks older than you feel?" Hill said to classmates, their relatives and well-wishers gathered in the Old Capitol rotunda.
Hill's class enjoyed "many advantages," he said, thanks, in great part, to an esteemed faculty that included, among other Drs. Blair Batson, Robert Currier, Arthur Guyton, James Hardy, Michael Newton, Patrick Lehan, Robert Sloan and Robert Snavely.
Dr. James Keeton, left, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, congratulates Dr. Jack Aldridge Jr. of Brandon, a recipient of the Class of 1964 commemorative medal. Aldridge passed away in October.
Speaking of the class of '64 and its contribution to medical care in the state, Hill said, "I think it brought us closer to better health.
Also remembered that night were 15 class members who are now deceased. Shortly before reading their names aloud, Dr. Charles Hollingshead of Ellisville said, "It's great to be a member of the greatest class to ever go through UMC."