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Stationary honor for on-the-go guy

Dr. Bob Schulenberg rides in the homecoming parade the afternoon of Friday Sept. 18 alongside his grandson. Schulenberg was inducted into Red Wing High School’s Wall of Honor this year. The 1960 graduates has been involved in everything from medicine to education. (Republican Eagle photo by John R. Russett)

In the summer of 1960, Bob Schulenberg packed his belongings from his family home in Red Wing’s East End into his father’s Army trunk and two suitcases and hopped a train bound for Chicago.

Fifty-five years later, Dr. Schulenberg sat in his Red Wing home, decaf coffee in hand. Over his shoulder the sprawling green of the river valley sat complacent below the contrasting gray of threatening rain clouds as he recalled that day when his first train ride and his first cab ride left him ready to set foot on the University of Chicago’s campus for the first time.

From his research days with the University of Minnesota, published works in Newsweek, the Journal of the American Medical Association and Medical World News, to his days as president and CEO of the Interstate Medical Group in Red Wing, member of the Red Wing School Board, and 30 years roaming the sidelines as the football team’s physician, idle time has been rare.

For those reasons – alongside others too numerous to list – Schulenberg was inducted to the Red Wing SOAR Wall of Honor the Friday of homecoming week.

Despite his best efforts, Schulenberg brought to the day the perpetual precipitation that blanketed the events of his graduating class.

“The class of 1960 played all of its football games in the rain and snow – and every other activity we had was in the rain and snow – and I’m hoping that that’s not going to rub off for this evening,” he said during a luncheon at the St. James in his honor.

Throughout his years of service to Red Wing and the surrounding area, Schulenberg held tightly to his memories of growing up in a town he said played a significant role in his continued success.

“Growing up between two monstrous hills and less than a mile from the river, at that time all of our parents practiced free-range parenting,” he said. “We were really raised by the neighborhood and a wonderful school and wonderful teachers.”

Bulletin boards in the halls of Colvill School were always covered with the successful exploits of those who had gone to Colvill, he said, a constant reminder to strive for greatness.

Then came Oct. 4, 1957, and SPUTNIK, which ushered in a sea change in the yet-to-be-pediatrician’s education. Ed Murphy, a high school teacher, didn’t take too kindly to the Russian’s venture into space, Schulenberg said, and began a new mathematical chemistry class.

“He got immensely angry at SPUTNIK and that changed everything, I think, for all of us,” Schulenberg explained. “We were in the chemistry lab at night, we were in the chemistry lab on the weekends. You could drive by the high school at midnight on Saturday and see the lights on up there.”

After 12 years away from Red Wing, an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a doctor of medicine from the University of Minnesota, Schulenberg returned to his home town for good in 1972.

The Red Wing class of 1960 salutatorian spends the winters in Florida with wife Nancy – who graduated third in that class – sitting on various boards and finding time to serve in the Florida Medical Reserve Corps, a federal unit that helps with preparations for a potential disaster.

A quote from his University of Chicago baseball coach Kyle Anderson in a newspaper article about Schulenberg seems to encapsulate best the zest with which he approached his days.

“Bob is rarely able to get to practice on time,” Anderson explained, “because of the many afternoon laboratory courses he has in his pre-med schedule. In fact, many days while we’re practicing, I’ll see him come tearing out of classroom building unbuttoning his shirt as he runs toward the locker room.”

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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