Thursday, August 11, 2005

Obit: Thomas W. Langfitt, M.D.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Thomas Langfitt; led Pew Charitable Trusts
By Gayle Ronan Sims
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted on Tue, Aug. 09, 2005

Thomas W. Langfitt, 78, who during his tenure as president of the Pew Charitable Trusts transformed a little-known Philadelphia-based philanthropy into one of the nation's largest foundations, died of miliary tuberculosis Sunday at home in Wynnewood.

Dr. Langfitt - as a board member from 1979 and as chief executive officer from 1987 to 1994 - oversaw Pew's conversion from a family-run enterprise to the nation's fifth-largest foundation, one that championed such causes as childhood development, health care and the environment. Today, Pew has an endowment of $4.2 billion and ranks third in grant-making behind the Ford and W.K. Kellogg Foundations, with annual grants of more than $200 million.


Born in Clarksburg, W.Va., Dr. Langfitt developed an interest in medicine while accompanying his father, a general surgeon, on house calls.

He earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1949 from Princeton University and a doctorate in 1953 from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Langfitt, who was drafted in 1946 and discharged the following year, was again called to active duty in 1955, the year he completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. He served two years as an Army doctor.

When his hitch was up, Dr. Langfitt and his wife, Carolyn, stayed in Baltimore until 1961, when they moved to Merion after he was named head of neurosurgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. He later moved to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as chairman of the neurosurgery department from 1968 to 1987.

"He was a leader in America in neurosurgery," Sean Grady, head of neurosurgery at HUP, said yesterday. "He is the modern-day father in the treatment of traumatic brain injury."

Dr. Langfitt, who moved to Wynnewood in the mid-1980s, was vice president of Penn's health affairs from 1974 to 1987, overseeing the hospital as well as the medical, dental, nursing and veterinary schools. As a researcher, Dr. Langfitt wrote more than 200 publications.

After retiring from Glenmede and Pew in 1994, the tall, courtly doctor returned to his medical roots. He became president of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. There, he led the development of a Web-based medical information system ( ) designed to improve access to medical data among the poor.
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Anthony H. Risser | |


Anonymous said...

Sad to learn of Dr Langfitt's passing. He performed spinal surgery on me in 1967 @UofP Hosp. He was a gentleman and a great surgeon and great with patients.

Rich Evans
Midlothian, Va

Anthony Risser said...

Thank you for your comment, Rich. You express such a nice sentiment about him.

With best wishes.