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1937 - 2023

James Prentice, M.D. (ANES ’70)

JANUARY 22, 1937 – MAY 19, 2023

James Archer Prentice – physician, community servant, and cherished husband, father and grandfather – died on May 19, 2023 in Austin, Texas from ALS. He was a rare combination of dignified and playful: he was a connoisseur of classical music and comic strips; he excelled at correcting grammar but was quick with a joke. It is hard to fully describe him: he accomplished so much in his life, but he had a jovial nature and a genuinely kind heart. He loved history and learning about people, and his sharp memory could recall precise data about a range of things, from World War II battles to details about former players for the Texas Longhorns. We never needed Google when he was around, and his keen mind never failed him, even in the last week of his life at age 86. Documenting his own history was important to him: the list of his achievements is long, but each activity he pursued was significant to him and he wanted each to be named. He did these things with a servant’s heart, to strengthen community and to connect with people.

Jim Prentice was born in San Saba County, Texas on January 22, 1937 to schoolteacher parents Noble Winston Prentice and Mildred Archer Prentice. He and his twin sister Sharon moved with their parents to Austin in 1942, where his father entered the sand and gravel business and attended UT law school, and his mother taught private piano lessons. He attended Wooldridge School, University Junior High School and graduated from Austin High School in 1955. He graduated from The University of Texas in 1958, where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order and The Texas Cowboys. He received his medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1962 and interned at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT from 1962 to 1963.

From 1963 to 1970, Jim served in the United States Air Force Medical Corps, first at Sheppard USAF Hospital in Wichita Falls, TX (1963-1965). He completed his anesthesiology residency at Bethesda Naval Medical Center and Yale-New Haven Medical Center (1965-67), and he served at Malcolm Grow USAF Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, MD (1967-70). He was certified as a Fellow of the American College of Anesthesiology and as a Diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology.

While on a visit back to Austin in 1963, Jim was invited to be the escort of Austin Aqua Festival Duchess Linda Gilbert, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Joe Thorne Gilbert. This began a long-distance courtship and grew into a life-long partnership. Jim and Linda were married in 1967 at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin. Linda then joined Jim in Alexandria, Virginia and attended medical school at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. while Jim continued his service in the Air Force.

After Linda graduated from medical school in 1970, Jim resigned from the Air Force with the rank of Major and moved with his wife and newborn daughter Alexandra to Rochester, Minnesota, where Jim joined the staff of Mayo Clinic and was an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Mayo Medical School and Linda completed her training in pediatrics and endocrinology at Mayo Clinic. During their time in Rochester, their family grew with the birth of two more children, Laura and James in 1972 and 1974. Although they loved their years in Rochester and the many friends made there, Linda and Jim decided in 1978 to return to their hometown of Austin where their children could enjoy grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Upon their return to Austin, Jim joined Austin Anesthesiology Group and practiced there until his retirement in 2002.

Jim said he actually had two careers: his first was practicing medicine, which he considered his true calling, and he not only loved his 40 years in medical practice, he encouraged young people at any opportunity to become physicians. Jim’s second career was as a community volunteer: he felt a duty to serve his community and approached his volunteer activities with the same level of thought, determination, and enthusiasm as he did his medical practice. With his incisive grasp of issues, dogged fundraising skills, and collegial nature, Jim’s good work helped the organizations he served do greater work for the Austin community and beyond.

Jim followed his passion for the arts and was the longest serving member of the Paramount Theatre Board (1979-2006) and served as its president in 1986. Proficient in violin and clarinet in his student years and a lifelong connoisseur of great classical music, he was an active member of Austin Symphony Orchestra Board for almost 40 years (1982-2019) and an Emeritus Member of the Board at the time of his death. He and Linda endowed a chair in the violin section at the Austin Symphony, and they gave generously to the building of the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Jim also was a founding member of the Board of Umlauf Sculpture Garden and a founding member of The New Texas Festival (now Conspirare) Board of Directors.

Following his passion for the University of Texas and particularly the students studying in fields associated with patient care, he dedicated countless hours to his university in his later years. For thirty years he served on The UT College of Natural Sciences Advisory Council (1991-2021), including a term as its chairman, during which he helped raise funds to endow the Mary Ann Rankin Leadership Chair. Jim was a member of The UT Commission of 125 and a member of The University of Texas Foundation Board (2006-2021), serving as president of the Foundation from 2017 to 2019. He was a Life Member of the Texas Ex-Students Association, and a member of The UT Chancellor’s Council, the 1881 Society, the President’s Associates, the Littlefield Society, and the Nautilus Society. He was honored to be the May 2006 Commencement Speaker for the College of Natural Sciences, and to be inducted into the Hall of Honor of the College of Natural Sciences in 2012. He and Linda recently endowed the Drs. James A. and Linda Gilbert Prentice Scholarship in Biology in the College of Natural Sciences.

To his passion for improving healthcare, he was committed in numerous ways. While at Mayo Clinic he served as a junior examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology, and he wrote a chapter in an Anesthesiology textbook. In addition to serving on several Texas Medical Association and Texas Anesthesiology Association committees, Jim was president of the Travis County Medical Society (1996) and served on the Board of Directors of Texas Medical Association Foundation for years, including two terms as treasurer. After his retirement he made several medical mission trips with Austin Smiles to El Salvador to provide anesthesia for children in need of cleft lip and palate repair. In addition, he served on the St. David’s (Community Health) Foundation Board from 2003 until 2021, making several hundred site visits in preparation for grant support of many health agencies in Central Texas. He considered his hundreds of hours of work each year for St. David’s Foundation to be his most significant and interesting contribution to his community, and he took great pride in the role that the Foundation plays in supporting healthcare in Central Texas.

To his passion for Austin, Jim was an expert in local history and could recite accurate facts that could fill shelves at the Austin History Center. He was involved in many local organizations: he was a member of Leadership Austin (Class of 1981-1982), served on the City of Austin Board of Adjustment (1980-1984), and was a driver for Meals on Wheels (2003-2013). In recognition of his dedicated service to the Austin community, in 2009 the First Tee of Greater Austin honored him as the inaugural recipient of its Responsibility Award.

Jim also was active in his church, serving on the Vestry of St. David’s Episcopal Church, Austin (1989-1992), as a member of the Board of St. David’s Episcopal Church Foundation (1997-2003), including as board president (1998-2001), and as an usher (40 years).

While his medial career and community activities were fulfilling aspects of this life, Jim thought his most significant contribution to society was the family he and Linda created and were so proud of. Jim loved large family gatherings and found as many reasons as possible to host them. In later years, his favorite family times were being with Linda and their children and grandchildren at their vacation home on Lake LBJ. He and Linda enjoyed travel, especially with many of their friends, and they visited all seven continents and most of the U.S. States. He was a loyal friend and stayed in touch with scores of people he met over the course of his life. He will be remembered as the sender of news articles, cartoons and old photographs (always with the date, people and place written on the back). We will also remember and miss his wry sense of humor, his warmth, and his love of jokes.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents and by Linda’s parents and her brother Joe Burch Gilbert. He is survived by his wife and best friend, Linda Gilbert Prentice, M.D., who faithfully and lovingly oversaw his care though a long and difficult illness, his daughters Alexandra Saenz, J.D. (Paul Saenz, J.D.) and Laura Masters, M.D. (Joseph Masters, Ph.D.), and his son James Gilbert Prentice, a biologist with Quest Diagnostics research division, his seven grandchildren: Ruth, Paul, Daisy and Eden Masters, and Archer, Carmen and Robert Saenz, and by his sisters, Sharon Eisenberg and Linda Dill, his sister and brother-in-law, Maline and Dudley McCalla, along with many cousins, nieces and nephews and several godchildren.

We remember our beloved Jim as he was for the first 80 years of his life, before he noticed the symptoms of ALS, but we also wish to recognize the way he dealt with his final years. He said he’d had a wonderful life, a strong marriage, a beautiful family, dear friends, and a satisfying career. He was grateful he’d gotten to travel the world and learn so many interesting things. He approached ALS patiently, finding ways to make his days meaningful, and welcoming visitors with great pleasure. To face each day calmly with less independence was the epitome of bravery. He wanted his ALS caregivers to be recognized for their contribution to his high quality of life as he progressed in his ALS journey, especially Ross Lohmann, Uzziah Rodriguez, Michael Bailey, Joe Davis, Sylvia Salinas, Mayra Gomez, Brittany Whitaker, Krystal Hess, the late Barbara Slawson, and others. He also appreciated medical care by Drs. Michael Shapiro, Yessar Hussein and Jeffrey Tramonte, respiratory therapist Bronwen Surber, physical therapist Suzanne Lukovics and guidance by Jennifer Beckett from ALS Association. He is indebted to U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs for providing specialized equipment necessary for his care and to Paralyzed Veterans of America as his ALS advocate in dealing with the VA.

A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 3pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th Street, Austin, TX 78701. A private burial will follow for the family at Hornsby Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the ALS Association (2301 West Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757), or to the “Drs. James A. and Linda Gilbert Prentice Scholarship in Biology” at the University of Texas College of Natural Sciences, Attn Zak Richards, P.O. Box 7458, Austin TX 78713.

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