Dr. Glenn Waterkotte Tribute

On Thursday, October 28th, the Board of Directors for the Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts recognized Dr. Glenn Waterkotte – President Emeritus, whom after more than 20 years is stepping away from the board upon conclusion of his term. In 2001 Dr. Waterkotte became the first president of the Board of Directors where he helped to built the foundation of the organization. Since then he has remained steadfast in his involvement with the organization, a calming voice of reason, passionate about our purpose and the people we serve. While we know he will not become a stranger, his presence in the Board room will be missed. Glenn, on behalf of the entire Academy family, THANK YOU for your service.

Current President, Rich Frazier shared this story below with those in attendance, which beautifully captures the essence of the legacy and impact that Dr. Waterkotte has sustained both within his personal life, his career, and his volunteerism.

On rare occasions in our lives, the universe has blessed humanity with crossover events that cannot be ignored.  Like the time that John Gage and Roy DeSoto from the television show Emergency made a cameo appearance on Adam 12 with Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed. Or when the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin, paired up with the Bionic Woman, Jamie Summers, to prevent a third world dictator from an evil scheme to deploy a weapon of mass destruction.  There are more recent events in pop culture history – Batman vs. Superman for example, or any of the 83 Marvel movies, but let’s stay focused on those that truly shape us as a nation. 

When events like this occur, it is worth our time and effort to pause, reflect, and acknowledge them as the iconic – even pre-destined developments in human kind that they are. 

And so, it is in that spirit that I share a story that i was told this last Sunday on the occurrence of a friend’s surprise 60th birthday party (the surprise and the party are red herrings… they have nothing to do with the story to follow).  My wife and I were visiting with close friends who also happen to be Hamilton band parents. For some reason we were on the topic of giving birth, whereupon, the other mom told us about delivering her oldest child seven weeks early.  She woke her husband up saying, “It’s time.”  She was only 33 weeks into her pregnancy.  Bleary eyed, he asked “Are you sure?” She showed him the wet sheets from her water breaking. 

After checking himself to make sure he wasn’t responsible for the wet sheets, he got up and they left for Desert Samaritan Hospital.  She was admitted, placed on various monitors, and was told that the baby was indeed on its way.  An aside: I don’t recall what she told us about the details of the birth. Something in my mind stuck mental fingers in my ears and went “Lalalalalalala” and I felt it both awkward and inappropriate to press upon our friendship to ask for a repeat telling. 

Suffice it to say that the baby was born prematurely and was taken to the neonatal ICU.  The tiny boy weighed only 4 pounds, 13 ounces and was 19 inches long.  Understandably, mom and dad were out of their minds with worry for their first born. 

That’s when she told us about this wonderful neonatologist who came into her room. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing… “OK.. so let’s look at what we’re facing.” He then listed all the issues that their son is up against. And with each item he listed, he countered with “But we can take care of that.”  “But we know how to handle that.” “But I’m not too worried about that.” “But he should recover fine from that…” He provided comfort, he built confidence, and he prepared them for the journey ahead. In short, she credited this kind-hearted doctor for lifting her spirits and giving her a gift she will never forget (and clearly she hasn’t…). 

Now, my wife and I have known her son for four years now, as he is a senior at Hamilton along with our daughter, Mallory. We had no idea of his risky start in life. As she was telling her story, we were just absorbing it and celebrating the healthy young man he is. Then, with tears in her eyes, our friend said,  “I will always be grateful to that doctor… Dr. Waterkotte.”

You can imagine my surprise at this moment. Because although we are all band parents, there has been very little crossover between my life on this board and my life with these good friends. Dr. Waterkotte’s name had never been mentioned between us until this moment.  So, I shared with them that we both serve together and that you are retiring from the board this week. 

And not to subtract from this story… I’m sure that Dr. Waterkotte – as a neonatologist – has received these kinds of stories from patients in the past. And I know from my friendship with many healthcare providers, that these types of stories are often shared with doctors and nurses. Most of us on the receiving end of care are truly are grateful for the care you provide.  So in any other universe, this would be “just” another story from another grateful patient. 

But let me share with you now the iconic crossover.  Our friend’s son, Zachary Lemons, is now a healthy, exceedingly intelligent 6 feet, 2 inch tall young man weighing in at 175 pounds. He grew up participating in athletics like his mom and dad. But much to their surprise, he wanted to be in marching band, where he excelled as a tuba and sousaphone player.  He excelled so much, that he auditioned for and made the Academy brass line and marched during the 2021 season. 

Glenn, you not only helped to give birth to the Academy, but you also helped to give birth to those who make up the Academy. Your work on both ends of your professional and volunteer spectrum helped to propel this young man forward into fulfilling his musical goals, and ultimately, his life goals.  I suspect that Zach is not the only one of our alums who was helped along in this world by Dr. Glenn Waterkotte. But he’s the only one that I know. And his is the only story I heard this week, out of the blue, coinciding with the occasion of your retirement from this board. 

And that, my friend, ranks this as one of those iconic crossover events from the universe right up there with the first time we saw Laverne and Shirley on Happy Days. So, Glenn, God and the universe say you can retire from this board in peace. Thank you for your professional and volunteer service. May this photo of our man, Zach, be a constant reminder that you are, indeed, a straight up gift to humanity. 

– Rich Frazier’s words upon the retirement of Dr. Glenn Waterkotte from the AAPA Board of Directors – October 28, 2021.

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