My Gustavus: Talmadge King, Jr., MD ’70

Posted on July 28th, 2017 by

Talmadge King Jr., MD, dean of the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, in his office


(My Gustavus profiles showcase an alum telling their Gustavus story.)


“The first year was a struggle. But I survived because there was a lot of support at Gustavus.”


I was at a high school summer program for underrepresented minorities that brought in colleges from around the country, and someone from Gustavus was there. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that Saint Peter was five times bigger than my hometown in Georgia. 

Bruce Gray in the admission office picked me up at the train station in Minneapolis. We remain friends to this day. He was like a big brother. He was open and frank about things, he had my back. But my first semester was difficult. I had gone to a very small, segregated high school. I was simply behind. I was determined to keep pushing. I adopted Gustavus. A lot of underrepresented minority students often feel like outsiders. That was not the way I felt. Within the first month, I was in Edgar Carlson’s office talking to him. I was invited in under special circumstances, but I thought, if I was invited in, I was invited all in. 

My second year got a lot better. I understood the pace, and I found students to talk to and study with. The Chapel was the center of gravity for me. John Kendall helped transform my ideas about who I was and what I could achieve. I talked to him about becoming an industrial psychologist. He said, “Wouldn’t you rather be a physician?” It was on my mind, but he gave it legitimacy. 

I attended a health careers program at Harvard summer school. Bruce Gray and others worked to make that happen. Being at Harvard crystalized my desire to be a physician. As a Harvard medical student I became co-director of that summer program. I did residency training at Emory, and pulmonary and critical care in Colorado. I was on faculty at the University of Colorado for 20 years. Then I moved to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where I was vice chair and then chair of the department of internal medicine. Today, I am dean of the highly ranked medical school at UCSF.

Mozelle ’70 and I were proud our youngest daughter, Malaika, went to Gustavus. A lot of what we talked about at Gustavus—cultures and great societies and great philosophers and faith—that’s what I wanted for my kids and why I recommend a liberal arts education.

The biggest lessons I take from Gustavus are about the value of living in a community that cares about social justice and fairness, that being nice is not a flaw—it’s a good thing, and that faith is reinforcing. These beliefs were solidified at Gustavus. I carry them with me now.  


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