A Week of Affirmation for Susan and John Tew

People pose for photo.

Susan and John Tew, at home; photo by Mark Bowen.

It was a week to remember for Susan and John Tew. It was a week to savor friendships, to thank colleagues and mentors, and to be mindful of all that had transpired along a 40-year path that culminated in a pinnacle of honors. John M. Tew, Jr., MD, Clinical Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and a neurosurgeon with the Mayfield Clinic, was named a Great Living Cincinnatian December 11 by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Susan Tew, his wife of 44 years, marked her 70th birthday two days earlier with her own milestone: a signature role in the funding of three schools in central Asia.

Only 126 individuals have been named Great Living Cincinnatians since the award’s establishment in 1967. Dr. Tew is joined this year by the Honorable Sandra S. Beckwith, David C. Phillips and Oscar P. Robertson.

Dr. Tew has earned international renown as a gifted and pioneering neurosurgeon, a compassionate doctor beloved by his patients, and a leader dedicated to excellence, continuous improvement, and the health and well-being of his community. He led the University of Cincinnati Department of Neurosurgery for 20 years, served as President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Academy of Neurological Surgeons, and the Ohio State Neurosurgical Society, and spearheaded the founding of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute in 1998. He continues to maintain an active medical practice and, as Professor of Neurosurgery, plays a vital role in the training of tomorrow’s neurosurgeons.

Musing on a week that Mrs. Tew described as “warm and mellow,” Dr. Tew said, “I think what I treasured most was the opportunity to hear from a lot of people who have become so important in our lives — patients, colleagues, associates, old friends, new friends — and to reaffirm that our mission and our work are important. All the people who are calling and contacting us to say congratulations are the people who made it possible for the recognition to be received.” “On the humorous side,” he continued, “I can say that it’s wonderful to be living. Susan and I have spent 41 years in Cincinnati, longer than anywhere else in our existence, and it has been a uniformly great experience.” Mrs. Tew said the week “has affirmed the value of the long hours and focused attention” her husband has devoted to so many patients, friends and research projects. “We have intense gratitude for all the people we worked with, played with and struggled with who have been part of the whole ongoing process of becoming,” she said. “One could say that it is ultimately the result of Dr. Frank Mayfield’s recognizing John’s potential in 1969 and together with his wife, Queenie, being willing to take us both on. They showed us what it means to be good citizens and members of the Cincinnati medical community.”

Earlier in the week, Dr. Tew sent an e-mail message to colleagues and staff:

“I want to express my personal appreciation to each of you for your support and contribution to our organization and to me personally. Many of you have communicated your expression of congratulations regarding the recent recognition by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.  I appreciate your thoughts but hasten to recognize that the honor is one to be shared with all of you. Each of you has stood in daily support of our patients, your associates, our physicians and our community. I accept this recognition because all of you have contributed beyond expectation to live up to the mission and goals of the Mayfield Clinic and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. I am honored to be a small part of the community image of our Clinic, our Institute and our Mission.”

“Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Mrs. Tew agreed. “It’s not a solitary accomplishment. It’s something the entire Mayfield and UCNI communities can be proud of.”

In talking about the honor, Dr. Tew continually says “we,” not “I.”

“I keep saying we because there’s nothing like having a compass in your life, and that has always been Susan, because she constantly helps me come back to a True North position and avoid doing some things that could be interpreted as inappropriate,” Dr. Tew said. “It’s so important to have a long-lasting partnership and to be an exemplary team. It starts at home and goes throughout your whole life. There are few families who aren’t touched by breakdowns in relationships. In our lives, Susan and I have had an incredible relationship, which is such a blessing for me.”

Indeed, those who know Susan Tew attest to her strength and ministerial qualities. She is the kind of person who remembers birthdays and anniversaries with a thoughtful card, who truly listens to others, and who can turn disappointment into opportunity. In this, her 70th year, she was the graduate school commencement speaker at Xavier University and was awarded the university’s Leadership Medallion. She spoke of her four pillars of commitment that had defined her adult life: marriage, motherhood, intentional community, and solidarity with the sick and dying.

During the summer she worked on a committee to bring Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea, to Xavier University.  “More than 4,000 people came to hear Greg Mortenson speak,” Mrs. Tew reflected, “and we raised enough funds to build three schools and sustain them for five years. It may take a few generations, but the culture will change with education. I am so pleased that John and I committed our major gift-giving to each other to this international peace-building project in honor of my 70th birthday.”

Dr. Tew also praised the Mayfield Clinic’s steadily increasing participation in the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and its association with smaller charities during the holidays and throughout the year.

“These charitable efforts put Mayfield and UCNI and all the goodness we are associated with in the spotlight,” he said. “It is an image, an example, of the good things that people can do, that organizations like the Regional Chamber can celebrate. We become an image they can relate to and want to shine a spotlight on. I always come back to the generosity of the citizens of this community. There are so many who are generous and giving of their time and resources and who support the values that are important in life.”

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