Kenneth E. Mitchem, DO (COM '55), father of Steven, Gregory and Randy, had a passion for life that ignited an insatiable curiosity and a keen sense of gratitude. Dr. Mitchem once confided in his youngest son, Randy, "I wish I could be 10 people—there are so many great jobs in this world."
Occupations such as carpenter, musician, farmer, over-the-road truck driver and others fascinated him. But Dr. Mitchem's first professional love was always medicine.
Perhaps the most profound story of Dr. Mitchem's life is how he became a member of the Class of 1955 at Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCCOM, n/k/a Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences) and committed his life to caring for people for the next 50 years.
"My father and mother, Jeanne, moved from Jefferson City to Kansas City where he pieced together an education between Jefferson City Junior College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Rockhurst University," Randy Mitchem, DO (COM '87), FCCP says. "But he never finished his degree and, after completing prerequisites for medical school, went to the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine and requested admission during a personal visit with the dean."
Kenneth J. Davis, DO, who served as dean of KCCOM from 1954-55, encouraged the earnest young student to finish his undergraduate degree and apply to medical school the following year. Unsatisfied, Mitchem returned to the college three more times, each time making his case for entrance-and each time being rejected.
"A Kansas City physician became aware of my father's predicament and suggested he see Dean Davis one last time, which he did," Dr. Randy Mitchem says. "As the story goes, Dr. Davis shook his head when my father appeared on his doorstep a fourth time and simply said, 'You're in.'"
He attributes that momentous decision to his father's dedication to medicine, and to how he forged a bond of eternal gratitude to the University.
Dr. Mitchem passed away on July 26, 2016, in Vancouver, Washington, at the age of 86, surrounded by his beloved family, including Randy who followed in the footsteps of a father he deeply admired.
"He was many things in life, but probably not a sound bite," says Dr. Randy Mitchem. "He had immense character and was a healer and a leader-although he didn't necessarily intend to be the latter."
Dr. Kenneth Mitchem's final note of gratitude for the opportunity that KCU afforded him came in the form of a $325,000 bequest to the University designated for the Centennial Campaign Leading the Way.
"My family and I are humbled that this will help the next generation of medical students move forward in the halls of our great school to become leaders in their fields," Dr. Randy Mitchem says.
Although none of us know how long our lives may be, it is an achievement to leave a legacy of living in a way that honors our creation—like Dr. Kenneth Mitchem.
Help strengthen KCU for generations to come by making a gift for our future, like Dr. Kenneth Mitchen did. Contact the KCU Office of Institutional Advancement at 816-654-7280 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.