IN THIS ISSUEAlumni Reunion Celebration – A Photo Essay
Meet a Student
For more than 30 years, Ret. Col. Mary Elizabeth Lucas ’59 worked as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army, helping soldiers, their families and civilians at military hospitals across America.
These days, the retired physical therapist is devoting the same kind of time and effort to her second passion: golf. Lucas, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, volunteers as a rules official at golf tournaments throughout the state, including the upcoming Pro Golf Association (PGA) qualifiers. Last year, she was a rules official for the NCAA regionals. In the past, she also served as director of the Women’s Texas Golf Association.
“It’s a fun thing to do now, though I don’t get to play as much as I used to,” said Lucas, the recipient of Winthrop’s 2009 Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. “I’ve been playing since junior high school.”
In Texas, Lucas, a native of Columbia, S.C., stays busy with tournaments. But before retirement, Lucas’ career kept her even busier than her current golf work. After graduating Winthrop with a degree in physical education, she joined the U.S. Army to pursue her interest in physical therapy. She was commissioned into the Army Medical Specialist Corps and completed the Army’s physical therapy course. That experience, Lucas said, motivated her to keep working toward more advanced degrees and getting experience with patient care.
“I’ve always had an interest in patient care, and in the Army I was part of a strong team,” she said, adding that she “couldn’t have been happier” with her decision to practice within the military. “I had more responsibility than I would in the civilian world, and I got to participate in one of the best physical therapy programs out there.”
Lucas continued her studies, earning a master’s degree in physical therapy at Stanford University and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Her work as a physical therapist took her to assignments at various hospitals, including Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Later, Lucas was named chief of the Army Medical Specialists Corps, the highest position in the Army a physical therapist can attain, and received numerous honors, including the Legion of Merit. She reached the pinnacle of her career in 1980, achieving the rank of colonel.
Lucas said she began building her career during her time at Winthrop, where she took valuable physiology and science courses.
“You really need a good science background to go into physical therapy, and Winthrop gave me that,” she said.