A Hand Up
Alumna's generosity helps build
St. Kate's Nationally renowned OT program.
By Amy Gage
When Gloria DeVore SP'64, OTR came to St. Catherine back in 1962, she already had three years of college behind her — at nearby Macalester — and a stint working in physical rehabilitation at St. John's Hospital.
"I was a few years older than most of the students," DeVore recalls, and she likely was more career-focused as well. Her supervisor at St. John's detected a special talent, "especially at mechanical stuff," and encouraged DeVore to pursue occupational therapy at St. Kate's.
The OT program then was less than 20 years old. "We were stuck way up there on the top floor of Mendel [Hall]. It looked like there was room for only 20 chairs," says DeVore, who's known as Mickey to friends and family.
Decades later — thanks to DeVore and other donors — that same space houses the expansive human anatomy lab. "It's wonderful that we have one," says DeVore, who founded Hand Therapy Associates in Tucson, Arizona in 1977, and who for years was known as the "first lady" of hand therapy. "Once students graduate and get out in their field, they will appreciate having been able to look at a muscle and the nerves and tendons and the skin."
Still active at age 80, DeVore retired in 1995 and continues to live in Tucson. She doesn't get back to St. Catherine often anymore, but evidence of her generosity abounds on the St. Paul campus.
In addition to the human anatomy lab, DeVore has contributed generously to OT faculty development, the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Distinguished Professorship in Catholic Identity and the renovated OT department space in Fontbonne Hall.
The OT seminar room in Fontbonne is named in DeVore's honor, and a social lounge in the Morrison residence hall bears the name of her late partner, Marge Sloan, a psychiatric nurse and, like DeVore, a devoted philanthropist.
DeVore's business, at its height, had 14 employees who saw up to 70 patients a day. Each was treated with time and care, with the "art and attitude" that she insists are a key to her profession.
Fascinated by the complexity and essential function of the hands, DeVore dealt with a range of issues during her long career: fractures, nerve and tendon repairs, skin grafts, arthritis, burns, amputations, finger transplants. "You have to be able to establish a relationship with the person you're working with," she says. "It takes mutual trust."
Years before she retired, DeVore began speaking out against the dictates of insurance companies that restricted patient visits and, she believes, compromised their rehabilitation. She puts the energy into golf that she once devoted to her profession. "It gets you out and keeps your joints moving, keeps the mind relatively active."
Is she good at golf? "Let's put it this way," DeVore says with a wry laugh, "I have a good time."
Her generosity to her alma mater is an expression of gratitude, she says: "The faculty and all the people I came in contact with at St. Kate's helped me achieve my goals. If it hadn't been for them, my career would not have been possible. My donations are one small way of paying it forward."