Today, Davidson College reflects the brightness of one who has combined profound Christian faith with medical excellence to spread a ministry of healing throughout the world. Following in the steps of Luke, “the beloved physician,” Stanley Craig Topple has served the least among us, with a modest heart powered by Christian conviction.
As a high school student, Stan Topple set his sights on missionary medicine. Once focused, he moved with precision toward this goal. Completing college in three years as a member of the Davidson Class of 1953, he headed to the Emory University School of Medicine in his hometown of Atlanta.
By 1959, the young orthopedic surgeon had taken a post in a South Korean missionary hospital with ties to the Presbyterian Church and to his alma mater. Wilson Leprosy Hospital was a primitive facility without electricity or running water, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Dr. Topple could operate only in daylight, moving his surgery from window to window as the sun moved across the sky.
In Korea, he met Mia Amundsen, a Norwegian pediatrician who became his wife and lifelong medical partner. Together, they became experts in treating leprosy, and succeeded in removing both physical and emotional barriers between people with leprosy and their communities. In 1981, they celebrated the opening of a modern rehabilitation hospital, completely staffed by Korean physicians and administrators, a tribute to Stan Topple’s vision and leadership.
In the course of 22 years, he had treated 100,000 patients and performed 760 leprosy surgeries, virtually eliminating leprosy from Korea. After a few years in the states while their four daughters finished college, the Topples took on a new challenge in 1991, at an old rural hospital in Kenya. They faced difficult living conditions, a new language, and personal danger, but with Stan Topple’s guidance, the Kikuyu Rehabilitation Hospital outside of Nairobi was dedicated in 1998 with a fully Kenyan professional staff and administration.
Stan Topple was an early practitioner of what is today a common medical approach: treating the whole person, body and soul. But he went further, treating the community, building confidence and expertise in local professionals, fostering education and public health awareness, and inspiring others to follow his lead as healer to those in need. In doing so, he exercised his God-given talents as a philanthropist, diplomat, politician, administrator, teacher, and above all, minister.
The life of Stanley Topple has been a practicum on lives of leadership and service, whether he was creating a mobile clinic in Korea, building scholarship programs for village children, or developing vocational rehabilitation for polio patients in Africa. For 50 years he has offered hope and health to the hurting of this world, and today he continues to volunteer his services in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Korea, and Mongolia.
BECAUSE you have devoted an active medical career to building, equipping, operating, and teaching in mission hospitals in the Far East and East Africa; and
BECAUSE, with modesty, gentle humor, compassion, and personal courage, you have devoted half a century to healing, teaching, and ministering to the weak and wounded; and
BECAUSE, as son, husband, father, surgeon, pastor, and teacher, your life forms a sure and steady testimony to a central lesson of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”; and
BECAUSE you have carried the banner of alma mater with grace and devotion from continent to continent, honoring Davidson College and exemplifying its mission among its graduates;
NOW THEREFORE, on this 29th day of April in the year 2009, Davidson College honors you, Stanley Craig Topple, and names you Doctor of Science, honoris causa.