“People help you, and you’ve got to help others,” Dr. Manfred Lichtmann ’54 said in a February 1982 feature article in the alumni tabloid Wagner. “You’ve got to give — it’s your responsibility.”
Lichtmann has given back throughout his long and productive life, which includes such amazing highlights as helping to save the life of President Reagan after the March 1981 assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr.
Wagner College has been a constant recipient of Lichtmann’s generosity. He has given annually to the College ever since 1979, making him an anchor of Wagner’s Anchor Society. “I appreciate what Wagner did for me,” he says.
Born in 1932 in Germany, Lichtmann was only four years old when his family immigrated to the United States. His parents soon encountered great difficulties, so that they could no longer care for Manfred and his brother. The boys spent most of their childhood and teen years at the Bethlehem Lutheran Home in Staten Island.
“I left the home in 1950 with only a suitcase, and fortunately Wagner gave me an academic and a football scholarship,” Lichtmann says. “I wasn’t very good at football, but I was determined.” While working full time throughout his college years, he also served as the football team’s co-captain and as the student body president.
He had always wanted to go into medicine, but initially he couldn’t get into medical school because he lacked funding. So he joined the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division as a parachutist and as a medical service corps officer.
Five years later, he finally entered medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, with strong recommendations from not only his former Wagner professors, Adolph Stern and Ralph Deal, but also from Army General William Westmoreland. (And, by the way, it was Mrs. William Westmoreland who set him up on a blind date at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with Emily, the post engineer’s daughter, who later became his wife.)
As an Army doctor who rose to the rank of colonel, Lichtmann served as chief of anesthesiology at the Third Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam, during the Tet Offensive in 1968; and at the 32nd MASH International Red Cross Hospital in Amman, Jordan, during the Black September civil war of 1970. He was also chief of anesthesiology for Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the first chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Lichtmann treated President Reagan after his Army retirement, when he was at George Washington University Hospital. “It was an honor,” Lichtmann says of that memorable emergency surgery, which the GWU team performed with great competence under the most stressful conditions. “He was a very gracious patient and a remarkable physical specimen.”
Lichtmann’s many awards include the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. He served at GWU Hospital until 1993, when he retired as a professor emeritus. In retirement, he and Emily have toured the world on cruises, grown vegetable gardens, learned to golf (or at least attempted to), and joined a bowling league. They now live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The 83-year-old says they moved out of a retirement home because there wasn’t enough to do. “I like activity,” he says. “I’ve gone back to cutting grass, trimming trees and bushes. It keeps you young.”