Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  September 2016  >  September 9, 2016  >  School of Medicine’s Robert G. Townley, MD’55, recalled as ‘great mentor, teacher, inspirer’
School of Medicine’s Robert G. Townley, MD’55, recalled as ‘great mentor, teacher, inspirer’

Robert G. Townley, MD'55Esteemed physician, longtime Creighton University School of Medicine professor and tireless advocate for the University and its values, Robert G. Townley, MD’55, died Sept. 9 in Omaha after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 88.

Townley was a pioneer in the field of asthma and allergy research and treatment, founding the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Creighton in 1966 and spending more than half a century in the pursuit of more effective therapies, especially for asthma, a disease affecting 25 million Americans.

“It has been a stimulating experience working with Bob Townley, who always had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge,” said professor of medicine Devendra K. Agrawal, PhD, who credited Townley with bringing him to Creighton and serving as a mentor in the early stages of Agrawal’s career. “Dr. Townley impacted my life as a great mentor, teacher and inspirer. He kept up with the frontiers of his area of science. I observed closely his approach to respond immediately and productively to indications that new avenues should be probed for better management of asthmatics.”

When he began his studies as an undergraduate at Creighton in 1948 — following a two-year hitch in the U.S. Navy — Townley was a physics major. After an aunt died as the result of an asthma attack, he switched to a pre-medicine course of study, intent on finding a cure for the chronic disease. Townley completed his pre-medical training at Creighton in 1951 and earned his medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1955.

Townley served an internship at Kansas City General Hospital and a residency at Boston City Hospital, where he was a senior fellow in medicine and allergy at the Lahey Clinic between 1959 and 1960. In 1960, he returned to Creighton as an instructor in the School of Medicine before taking a four-year stint at two hospitals in Denver. Townley returned to Creighton in 1966 and remained at his alma mater, still working at his campus laboratory right up until a few weeks before he died.

Regularly serving as supervising physician at the Magis Clinic, a free medical clinic staffed by Creighton health sciences students and housed in the Siena/Francis House shelter, and also embarking on medical mission trips around the world, Townley quietly and steadfastly carried out the mission and ministry of Creighton University.

“Dr. Townley was a diligent and discerning teacher, researcher, and clinician,” Creighton University President the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, SJ, said. “His life and work are examples to us all of what true commitment to a cause and, more importantly, to people, looks like. Bob was true to the Jesuit ideals of treating the whole person and serving as a man for and with others. His training at Creighton and his subsequent service to this institution have combined to make this world a better place. He was a beloved son of Creighton University and the School of Medicine, and he will be missed far beyond these halls.”

Townley penned more than 500 articles, chapters or abstracts and co-authored three textbooks. He was awarded numerous grants for the study of asthma and allergy and was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American College of Chest Physicians. He was a member of the Presidential Task Force for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and in 1998 received the Distinguished Clinician Award from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Townley was recognized with the School of Medicine’s 1997 Ignatian Award Citation and, in 2008, was awarded Creighton’s Alumni Achievement Citation.

Alongside his academic and medical pursuits at Creighton, Townley served as one of the University’s most avid benefactors, establishing an endowed fellowship to support researchers from around the world coming to Creighton for training and to share their expertise.

Even into his sixth decade at Creighton, Townley seemed to be able to pinpoint instantly every person, every event, every study he had come across.

“I have always been fascinated with Bob’s memory,” Agrawal said. “He always remembered names of every colleague, remembered key scientists in the field and recalled the latest advancements in the pathophysiology of allergy and asthma.”

Townley also contributed to Creighton in another remarkable way: nine of his children are Creighton alumni and four of his daughters- and sons-in-law also earned degrees at the University.

A wake service will be held Friday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at St. John's Church on the Creighton campus. The funeral Mass will be held Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. at St. John's.

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