November 17, 2017

From the pages of Medicine at Michigan: 100 years, 9,000 babies, and a lifetime of memories

Philip Peven, M.D., is the last surviving member of the Class of 1941, and, at 100 years old, the oldest U-M Medical School alumnus

Dr. Philip Peven

It was nearly 80 years ago, but Philip Peven (M.D. 1941) can still remember getting his first white coat, early in his third year at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“We proudly wore them on campus,” he says with a smile. “I remember my roommate and I walking out on the Diag and getting glances from passing students. Our white coats and stethoscopes were markers of our future.”

The driven son of a Detroit grocer, Peven reveled in the hard-won symbol of his perseverance. It was 1939 and Hitler had just invaded Poland, but the war seemed a world away from Ann Arbor as the future doctor bicycled between the Diag, his fraternity house, and the Old Main Hospital on North University Avenue. Medical school tuition was $250 a year.

That all changed soon after he graduated in 1941.

“Pearl Harbor was in December of my first year as an intern,” he recalls. “We were the first resident class — 800 of us around the country — during the war in 1942. The Army gobbled us all up, because they needed medical personnel and were getting ready to go overseas.”

World War II claimed four class of 1941 members, Peven says: “one on the invasion of Guadalcanal, one went down with his destroyer in the Pacific Naval Battle, one in France on D-Day in 1944, and one in 1945 in Germany.”

Today, Peven is the last surviving member of the Class of 1941, and, at 100 years old, the oldest U-M Medical School alumnus. And although he retired from practice 30 years ago, his memories remain as vivid as ever.