CRCDS Alumni/ae Spotlight: Dr. Kenneth V. Dodgson
From an early age, Dr. Kenneth V. Dodgson was determined to become a Baptist minister—just like his father, who encouraged both him and his older brother Stan to apply to Colgate Rochester Divinity School (CRDS). Their father believed that the school would provide his sons with a more rigorous and complete awareness of theological positions than his own alma mater. Both Kenneth and Stan attended CRDS, and although Stan was two years ahead, they were able to be roommates for one year (something they both enjoyed, as they were very close.) They were baptized together and later had the privilege of being ordained together, as well.
Before his time at CRDS, Kenneth also attended Franklin College (a Baptist-affiliated college in Indiana) intending to attain a pre-ministerial degree. In order to complete a required science credit, he decided to draw his way through vertebrate zoology. Halfway through the semester, Dr. Deppe (the science professor) asked Kenneth into his office and asked, “I know you are a pre-ministerial student, but have you ever thought of a career in medicine?” Kenneth had not, but it made him do some thinking. He decided to switch majors and completed a degree in biology-chemistry.
In 1948, Kenneth completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree at CRDS. The next year, he was elected National President of the newly formed Baptist Youth Fellowship and began to travel the length and breadth of the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches.) He had the opportunity to speak in churches, youth groups, state youth and state Baptist conventions, and youth conferences. During the same time, he also applied to medical schools. Kenneth was accepted at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia where he was able to complete medical school, his internship, and a surgical residency before going to India. Dr. Dodgson shared with us that going to India was a compromise between his passions for ministry and medicine.
During his more than two decades of service in Jorhat, India, the 150-bed hospital he served admitted 100,000 patients, and performed 33,000 operations and deliveries. Dr. Dodgson still has a list of the 11,000 operations and deliveries that he himself performed, and he assisted in a teaching and supervisory role in many more. He also became an “amateur architect” as the needs of the hospital grew, adding an enlarged outpatient department, an enhanced ancillary services unit (including radiology, physical therapy, and laboratory), an enlarged nurses’ hostel, and a brand new two-room operating suite. Before moving to India, Dr. Dodgson’s wife Sally had earned a Master of Science in Education with a focus on counseling. She was able to serve the hospital community with her knowledge and skill set, including teaching counseling and psychology in the nursing school.
One of Dr. Dodgson’s goals in India was to “work himself out of a job,” and so he did. The hospital has continued to thrive since his departure and that of other foreign medical staff, and in 2024 the Jorhat Christian Medical Centre will celebrate one hundred years!
After Dr. Dodgson and his wife Sally returned to the United States in 1982, she decided to take classes with Dr. J. C. Wynn (who had developed a program in family therapy at CRCDS.) Sally went on to earn her Master of Divinity. Dr. Dodgson joined the University of Rochester Medical Center’s new clinical program in occupational and environmental medicine and later became the clinical director of the program (retiring in January, 2000).
When we asked him how his time at CRCDS had affected his life, Dr. Dodgson said:
“One of the things I have appreciated about CRCDS is that Baptist principles were taught. Freedom of conscience is one of the Baptist principles—that one is free to believe whatever one feels to be truth, but also to respect all others who differ in what they believe to be truth. The principle recognizes that the human family is very diverse—that what various individuals consider to be true differs by religion, culture, ethics, morals, or societal accommodation.
Living in India for 24 years, surrounded by multiple cultures, and a variety of religious experiences—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian—I realized acceptance of diversity is crucial. The same respect is much needed in America today, during this time of a very divided nation. I am relieved that CRCDS does not condone the concept of white supremacy, is accepting of the varieties of sexual orientation, and does not demand acceptance of codified concepts of faith.”
Dr. Dodgson celebrated his 96th birthday last month, March 2022. Dr. Dodgson is a dedicated supporter of CRCDS and is also a member of the Horizon Society. Alumni/ae and friends, like Dr. Dodgson, who make legacy gifts to CRCDS in their estate plans play a key role in the school’s fiscal stability. Their gifts build the endowment, a perpetual fund whose income provides essential financial support for all aspects of CRCDS. We recognize the commitment of these visionary donors by extending to them membership in the Horizon Society. The Horizon Society members understand the critical need to strengthen CRCDS’s future by providing gifts that will support academic excellence, student scholarships, and the development of progressive and transformative leaders.