Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Masters, Lindstrom, and decanal adventures

Marshall A. Lichtman
Rochester, New York, USA


Masters and Virginia Johnson at the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later the Masters and Johnson Institute) in 1971.
(Permission for publication granted by Corbis Images)

One of the responsibilities of the dean is to foster the relationship of alumni with the school. This effort can lead to enhanced financial support, but it can also bind accomplished graduates, who may or may not think fondly of their alma mater, to the school and its programs. The art of “cultivation” is central to the marriage of alumni, talented community members, local business leaders, and other relevant parties to the school. In 1992, during the University of Rochester’s Campaign for the 90’s, I embarked on a trip to Saint Louis with Edie Siemann, Director of Development for the School of Medicine and Dentistry, to meet with William Howell Masters (1915-2001), class of 1943. Masters and his former research partner and wife, Virginia Eshelman Johnson (1925-2013), had become legendary for their academic studies of sexual behavior in Americans, resulting in a series of textbooks intended for a professional audience, including Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy.1 However, book sales exceeded the number of sex therapists by several orders of magnitude. They became “best-sellers” and were translated into over 30 languages before the couple’s divorce ended their private and professional relationship.

Arriving in St. Louis, Edie and I reached Masters’ office and were ushered in. Here we had a prominent alumnus, a noted physician and scientist, world renown, who had no record of any interest or participation in his medical school’s affairs and no history of philanthropic giving to the University of Rochester. In addition, he was approaching the 50th anniversary since his graduation, in 1993, from medical school. My task was to change that relationship. Was I in for a surprise!

He sat behind a desk cluttered with reports and papers. He was wearing a white coat emblematic of medicine and science. We introduced ourselves, bantered for a bit, and then began to talk about his experiences at the medical school, hoping for some joyful commentary. For about 30 minutes, he expressed his displeasure about his experience. He made no mention of his student research with George Washington Corner. Corner was professor of anatomy with whom Masters had worked and who surely influenced the direction of his career. Corner was a distinguished

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry graduating class of 1943. William H. Masters in top row, seventh individual from right (circled). Petter A. Lindstrom in third row from bottom, second individual from left (circled). From the University of Rochester Edward G. Miner Medical Library Archives. (Courtesy of Christopher Hoolihan, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian)

embryologist with an interest in ovarian function who contributed to the discovery of progesterone. Masters did not describe his clinical experiences while learning to be a physician, the excitement of his first visit to the operating room, the fine university hospital in which he worked, the nights on call, his first delivery of a newborn (he later trained as an obstetrician-gynecologist), the hours in the medical library, the escape to Bill’s lunch room, a popular student retreat, or the life-long friendships or professional associations made. He did not explain how he developed his interest in gynecology, estrogen therapy, and, later, human sexuality. He spent the entire time complaining about Petter Lindstrom, a member of his medical school class.

Petter Aron Lindstrom (1907-2000) had joined the University of Rochester School of Medicine, class of 1943, in the fall of 1940, after coming to the United States from Sweden. Because of the alphabetical proximity of “L” and “M’, he and Masters were in the same departmental clerkship groups in the clinical years of school. Lindstrom was Ingrid Bergman’s first husband.2 He was older, 33 years, when he entered medical school after having been a successful dentist and teacher of dentistry in Stockholm. He had met Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) on a blind date in 1933, when she was 18; she was at the time enrolled in drama school. He was nearly nine years older, but they fell in love and married in 1937, she 21 years and he 30 years old. Her movie career started in Sweden and, later, continued in Germany; she was invited to the United States in 1939 by David O. Selznick, the famed director, to film an English remake of Intermezzo, her sixth Swedish film, made in 1936. By this time, Bergman had a seven-month-old daughter, Friedel Pia Lindstrom.

  Petter Lindstrom, Ingrid Berman, and Pia Lindstrom at play outside their home on South Avenue, Rochester, New York in the winter of 1942-43. From the University of Rochester Edward G. Miner Medical Library Archives. (Courtesy of Christopher Hoolihan, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian)

By 1938, Lindstrom had already cut back his dental practice in Stockholm and began studying medicine. Lindstrom decided to complete his medical studies in the United States and could have gone to the University of Southern California School of Medicine, as he, Ingrid, and Pia were living in Hollywood. He would have had to wait a year to start school, something he did not want to do; so, through the aegis of an American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship, he was encouraged to examine medical schools that would allow him to start in the fall of 1940. Lindstrom took up residence in Rochester as a medical student and Ingrid and Pia lived with him at 985 South Avenue, across the street from Highland Hospital, a small Rochester community hospital, and a 20-minute walk to the medical school. Bergman was back and forth between her films; her visits were for periods of days to months.

Masters complained that medical school was distressing for him because Lindstrom was frequently making arrangements to be with Bergman when she was on a movie set. Bergman had indicated that her best performances were those in which she fell in love with the director or the leading man; and, Lindstrom, although remarkably tolerant of these feelings, wanted to be near his extraordinarily attractive wife as much as possible. This situation required Lindstrom to leave school for days at a time, during which time Masters had to cover for him and draw his patients’ blood samples and do other work. He felt so put upon that he spent most of our time together ventilating about these unpleasant experiences. They were high in his consciousness five decades later.

I had no success in interesting Masters in becoming an engaged alumnus, let alone a major donor to the school. I did learn that, in 1996, he gave the school a modest gift and, perhaps, I played some role in that contribution based on my earlier outreach to him and my willingness to listen to his fifty-year old grievances.

Despite my failure to interest Masters in reconnecting with his alma mater, the medical school broke all previous records for financial gifts and led other University colleges during the Campaign. This achievement occurred despite President Dennis O’Brien’s request to have the College of Arts and Sciences lead the way by not permitting a higher campaign goal for any other school. He had good reasons for that stipulation, but we bested it!



  1. William Howell Masters, American National Biography Online. www.anb.org/articles/13/13-02600.html (last accessed 20 January 2014)
  2. Ingrid Bergman and Alan Burgess, Ingrid Bergman: My Story (New York: Delacorte Press, 1980).
  3. Letter from Petter A. Lindstrom, M.D. to Margaret (Peg) Ames, M.D., July 30, 1993. Re: the 50th reunion of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Class of 1943, Archives of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Alumni Office.



MARSHALL A. LICHTMAN, MD is a physician, educator, and medical scientist. He received his A.B. from Cornell University and his M.D. from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine. He is Professor of Medicine and of Biochemistry and Biophysics and former Dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he has spent his entire career. He is a Master of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Society for Clinical Research and the Association of American Physicians. He has served as President of the American Society of Hematology, on the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross, as Chair of the Scientific Council of the American Red Cross, on the New York State Council of Graduate Medical Education, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2015 – Volume 7, Issue 2

Spring 2015  |  Sections  |  Moments in History

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