University of Vermont

College of Medicine Alumnus Burnett Rawson, M.D. '39 Turns 100

Burnett Rawson
Centenarian Burnett Rawson, M.D.’39 (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

One of the University of Vermont’s oldest alumni reached a major milestone this month, as Burnett Rawson, M.D., a graduate of the College’s Class of 1939, celebrated his 100th birthday on Thursday, July 11.

On the day Dr. Rawson was born in 1913, Woodrow Wilson had been President of the United States for just four months, the 48th state, Arizona, had entered the union only the year before, less than 10 percent of the nations roads were paved, and there were about half as many people residing in Vermont as there are today. At the College of Medicine, 38 students had just earned their M.D. in the Class of 1913 (exactly a third the number of today’s first-year class); all were male – the College would not confer the M.D. on a female till 1924.

Burnett Rawson grew up on the family farm in Underhill, Vt. His class at the Underhill High School consisted of four students. In 1932, a distant relative took him under her wing and, through her generosity, he was able to attend UVM and earn both his undergraduate and medical degrees. After an internship in Waterbury, Conn., he joined the Army Air Corps in World War II, rising to the rank of major. After the war and a post-graduate fellowship, he practiced urology in New York for many years before retiring to the Underhill/Jericho area.

In the 1990s, Dr. Rawson and his wife, Jessie, funded the building of the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library. The library, which was named in honor of their daughter who passed away in 1992, serves the residents of Jericho and Underhill. Jessie Rawson died in 2004.

Dr. Rawson and his wife were also deeply committed to broadening the diversity of the student body at his medical alma mater, and have donated generously to support scholarship aid for medical students. In a recent interview, Dr. Rawson said, “I would have no reason to live if I could not give to others.”

A public celebration of Dr. Rawson’s 100th birthday was held on Saturday, July 13, at the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library in Underhll.