Conventional wisdom holds that Southern Methodist University opened the
doors to Dallas Hall to its first students on September 28, 1915, offering
classes in the liberal arts, theology and the fine arts. What is sometimes
forgotten is that even though this date is heralded as SMUís first day of
classes, these students were not the first ones to attend the University. In
fact, by 1915, SMU had already opened and closed its first school, SMUís
College of Medicine. Formerly Southwestern Medical College in Georgetown,
Texas, SMU assumed control of the medical college in the fall of 1911.
Housed near downtown Dallas at 1420 Hall Street, the medical college, which
also included a pharmaceutical school, instructed approximately 100 men in
the disciplines of anatomy, medicine, surgery and eye, ear, nose and throat.
By 1914, the medical school was granted the prestigious Class A ranking by
the American Medical Association, placing it among some of the finest
medical colleges in the country. Despite its successes, SMUís Board of
Trustees made the financial decision to close the school after the 1914-1915
school year, so that it could better concentrate its resources on its
liberal arts program.
During its brief tenure, SMUís
Medical College graduated four classes. One of its graduates in the Class of
1913 was John William Macune, whose diploma hangs above.
The son of a physician and
Methodist minister, John William Macune was born on January 9, 1882, and
grew up in Cameron, Texas, a small town southeast of Temple, Texas. After
receiving his medical degree from SMU in 1913, Dr. Macune served as a First
Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps during World War I stationed at Newport
News, Virginia. He later moved his wife and two children to the border town
of Eagle Pass, Texas. Although there is no record that Dr. Macune served as
an official Methodist medical missionary in Mexico, according to his family
he worked two days a week in Allende, Mexico, treating patients. By this
time, SMU had closed its medical college and, because Mexican authorities
could not verify that SMU had ever operated a medical school, they
repeatedly arrested Dr. Macune for practicing medicine without a license.
For a year, Dr. Macune paid daily fines in order to continue his practice in
Mexico. Eventually the National University of Mexico settled the issue
because handwritten in Spanish in the upper left-hand corner of Dr. Macuneís
diploma is the following statement:
ďThe National University of
Mexico formerly declares this Doctor of Medicine Diploma conferred to
Mr. John W. Macune through Southern Methodist University College of
Medicine Dallas, Texas U.S.A official. From the view of said institution
he is deserving of this credit and Mr. Macune has distinguished
In 1924, the Macunes moved to
Ballinger, Texas, where Dr. Macune was a county health officer, city
hospital anesthesiologist and general practitioner. He was actively involved
in civic work and was a vital member of his community until his death from
cancer on April 3, 1945. Upon his death, flags were lowered to half mast in
Ballinger in honor of his legacy.
Dr. Macuneís sheepskin diploma
was donated to the University by his daughter, Alida Macune Rappaport, who
had stored it in a cedar chest for over 40 years. It hangs in the Laura Lee
Blanton Building as a reminder of the first students in a long line of
graduates who went on to be outstanding representatives of their alma mater.