Life of leadership

In Memoriam: Philip Pumerantz, educator and trailblazer in California

Pumerantz helped resurrect the practice of osteopathic medicine in California by founding WesternU/COMP.

Philip Pumerantz, Ph.D., who helped resurrect the practice of osteopathic medicine in California by founding Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (WesternU/COMP), died Dec. 26 in his home in Upland, California. He was 85.

Pumerantz, who obtained a doctorate in education from the University of Connecticut, was one of the longest-serving university presidents in the country upon his retirement from WesternU/COMP in 2015 at 82.

Born Nov. 3, 1932, in New London, Connecticut, the former high school teacher went on to become a professor of education at the University of Bridgeport, co-founding its College of Continuing Education, before moving on to work as an educational consultant and establishing a college in Puerto Rico that later became Caribbean University.

Philip Pumerantz, Ph.D.

The U.S. Army veteran had no previous experience with osteopathic medicine before he was hired as a consultant by the AOA to help establish osteopathic medical schools in the eastern and southern United States. He later became the AOA’s director of education.

“I liked the philosophy,” Pumerantz told the southern California-based Daily Bulletin newspaper in a 2015 story about his retirement.  “It doesn’t take much to be skillful. What takes more is the caring and the humanistic approach.”

It was this background and belief that caught the eye of a noteworthy group of osteopathic physicians practicing in California in the early 1970s. They eventually recruited Pumerantz to help them establish an educational foothold for what was then a struggling profession in the state.

“I had a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work,” Pumerantz said of founding the medical school in a WesternU View magazine profile. “But when I started to think about it later, I realized a list of obstacles really was a plan to starting such a school.”

Pumerantz accepted the challenge and the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), later renamed Western University of Health Sciences, was founded in an abandoned mall in downtown Pomona in 1977 with the initial class of 36 students starting in the fall of 1978.

Pumerantz led the school for 38 years. Today, WesternU/COMP, has nine colleges, 21 programs, and nearly 4,000 students spread across 25 acres.

He is survived by his wife, Harriett; three children, Andrew, Beth and Richard; and five grandchildren.

Memorial services were private. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pauline Weiss Pumerantz Scholarship at WesternU/COMP.

3 comments

  1. He was a legend in osteopathic education.
    In 1973 Dr. Pumerantze spoke to students at CCOM and we were quite impressed.

  2. My deepest condolences to Harriet and the Family. I treasured my time working with Phil as the first Dean of Academic Affairs appointed in 1977. We worked diligently and long hours writing and developing the documents required for AOA approval. Phil was amazing in educating me on fund raising throughout CA and the Western States. He will always remain as one of the finest educators I have ever had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by.

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