Richard Gutekunst, Ph.D., who served as dean of the college for 15 years, passed away July 7. He was 92 years old.
“Dean Gutekunst was an accomplished scientist and forceful academic leader,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “He was a man with a clear vision and strong convictions. In the face of multiple challenges, he remained rock-solid in his commitment to advancing the college, and he viewed a strong research foundation as essential to the success of the college’s academic and clinical endeavors. He was also a kind and compassionate gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor who genuinely cared about all the members of the college family whether they be faculty, staff or students. Dean Gutekunst will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.”
A native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Dr. Gutekunst was appointed dean of the UF College of Health Related Professions, as the college was then known, in 1980. He previously served as dean of the College of Allied Health Professions at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia. He conducted research in the areas of virology, bacteriology and infection control. While directing virology studies at the Naval Medical Field Research Laboratory at Camp Lejeune, N.C., he was instrumental in developing the first successful oral vaccine for immunization against adenovirus. He received the Navy Commendation for Medical Research in recognition of this accomplishment in 1968.
As dean of the College of Health Related Professions, Dr. Gutekunst’s leadership and advocacy extended beyond the college to positions at the state and national levels. He served as president of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions and was elected a fellow of the association, its highest honor. He also helped found and served as president of Florida Alliance of 100+ for Health-Care Manpower. This group brought together representatives from public and private health care facilities, educational institutions and government agencies to address a severe shortage of health care workers in Florida.
On campus, Dr. Gutekunst led UF’s participation in the communitywide United Way campaign for several years, chaired the Infection Control Committee for Shands Hospital and the Health Science Center’s Clinical Education Committee, and served on advisory boards for both the UF Facial Pain Center and the UF Craniofacial Center. He was also an ardent support of Gator athletics.
“Dr. Gutekunst was a man of principles who had a strong leadership style. We needed those qualities during the ’80s and ’90s to move the college forward and to grow,” said Linda Stallings, retired associate director for medical/health administration who worked at the college for three decades. “He was a caring and supportive person whether it was making us, the staff, feel a part of the operation, or supporting faculty who wanted to go on for their doctorates to make them better educators.”
When he retired in 1995, Dr. Gutekunst was awarded the Presidential Medallion from former UF President John Lombardi.
After retirement, Dr. Gutekunst continued to support the college and the university. He served on the college’s advisory board, a group he founded in 1985. He and his wife, Anna, made generous donations to the university, funding PHHP scholarships and establishing the Edwin and Florence Fetterman Women’s Athletic Scholarship, named for Anna’s parents.
“In a video shown at PHHP’s 60th anniversary gala in January, Dean Gutekunst described his time as dean as being a caretaker of the college,” said Robert G. Frank, Ph.D., dean of the college from 1995 to 2007. “My own sense of his deanship is quite different. He led the college during a period of extraordinary fiscal challenges at UF. With his leadership, the core programs of the college were preserved and enhanced. When I became dean, he was an exceptional mentor. Many of the ideas we implemented during my deanship arose from discussions with Dick. His quiet manner (except at basketball games) often belied his vision and strong compass for opportunity.”
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. at the First Lutheran Church in Gainesville. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Lutheran Church, 1801 N.W. 5th Ave., Gainesville, FL 32603; the University of Florida Foundation (F00233 Public Health and Health Professions Fund), P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604; the University of the Sciences, 600 South 43rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19104 (Attn: Robert Rudd); or the Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University, Box 39, Ithaca, NY 14853.
Dr. Gutekunst gave strong leadership to the departments in our college. He definitely made a significant contribution to the growth in academia and research. I always remember when he presented lectures each year in one of my courses focusing on virology and bacteriology for the physical therapy students. I am sure that the students who heard his lectures have continued to think about protecting themselves from dirty handrails and doorknobs and never, never eating unrefrigerated potato salad at a picnic. Dr. Gutekunst enjoyed the students’ reactions to his examples and they were always enthusiastically awaiting the rest of his lectures.
– Claudette Finley, associate professor emerita of physical therapy
I had the honor and privilege to work for Dr. G for eight years and must say that the things I learned under his leadership were life-changing. He and Anna were, without a doubt, the most caring and giving people I had ever met – we were all treated like family. My husband and I have so many fond memories of our times together with Dr. G and Anna. Their generosity and loving friendship over the past 30+ years will never be forgotten. Thank you, Dr. G, for your patience, guidance, support and friendship, but most of all, for believing in me.
– Cheryl May, executive secretary to Dr. Gutekunst
It was hard to imagine Richard Gutekunst being in a role other than a dean. He was first and foremost an individual of exceptional integrity. It helped him enormously in his role where he dealt routinely with sensitive information. He was always willing to help and he did so with great capacity. He brought excellent understanding and knowledge to the deanship from his background in the Navy. He provided growth opportunities for the departments of the College of Health Related Professions and he was an excellent manager of scarce resources. He was fair in his administrative policies and he had the respect of people above and below him in the administrative hierarchy. It was a privilege to work for him and to know him and I am confident that I speak for my peers.
– Dr. Barry Greene, former chair of health services administration and former associate dean of academic programs