The late Ruth Weigle Guyton always had time for her 10 children, building a rich legacy of mentoring that was recognized posthumously April 13 with the 2019 Legacy Award from the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC).
All the Guyton children became physicians like their late father, the renowned Dr. Arthur Guyton of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He was one of the leading cardiovascular scientists of the 20th century, a master teacher for countless physicians and health professionals, and author of the most widely-used physiology textbook in history.
The prestigious Legacy Award, which honored both Ruth and Arthur Guyton, recognizes those who have a lifework of mentoring, leadership, scholarship and/or philanthropy – all characteristics promoted and encouraged by the OMWC.
Daughter Dr. Jean Gispen, a rheumatologist and physician with UM Employee Health on the Oxford campus, shared memories from the upbringing she and her Guyton siblings enjoyed — one that helped shape their lives and achievements.
“There was a huge Webster’s dictionary on a stand close to Mama’s desk. If an unfamiliar word was used and a child asked, ‘What does that mean?’ The answer was always, ‘Look it up,’” she said.
“The other phrase we heard as kids, both from Mama and Daddy, was, ‘Figure it out.’ This could apply to changing a chain on a bike, starting the lawnmower, putting a jigsaw puzzle together, settling an argument among siblings or friends, or trying to cook dinner. ‘Figure it out’ was shorthand for ‘You can do this. Think about it. Experiment. Try different methods. Read about it. You’re smart enough to do this. You’ve got it.’”
The reception and dinner was hosted at the Country Club of Jackson, Mississippi, as the city became home to the Guytons after the UM School of Medicine moved from the Oxford campus in 1955. C Spire — a diversified telecommunications and technology services company and the nation’s largest privately-held wireless provider — was the presenting sponsor for the event.
“We’re always excited to see who the Women’s Council selects to receive the annual award and we can’t think of a better choice than the Guytons, two inspiring and generous human beings,” said Beth Creekmore Pickering, executive director of the C Spire Foundation. “They truly made a difference in the medical profession, not only in Mississippi but throughout the world – all the while raising an amazing family who is equally inspirational.”
While countless articles have been written about Arthur Guyton and his brilliant career, Gispen further reminisced about her mother’s influence on the family.
“Mama read to us every night, sitting in the middle of the couch with the youngest child on her lap and everyone else gathered around,” she continued. “It was nice to see the pictures in the books, but it was also comforting just to listen to her voice. I can remember listening to the stories even when I was in my teens.”
She has numerous memories of her mother making time to join her family on the living room floor, from helping with rice bags for her wedding to playing with grandchildren.
“You would have thought Mama had unlimited time to sit and chat and play.”
Gaye Flynt and her husband Roger, now living in Oxford, were members of an eclectic discussion group in Jackson for several years with the Guytons. The host couple for the group each month chose the topic.
“Both Ruthie and Arthur were so very intelligent and the discussions could become quite lively,” Flynt said. “Ruthie would have to pat his arm and say, ‘Now, Arthur.’ They were definitely a team; they completed each other. They traveled all over the world, with Arthur on his crutches (due to residual paralysis from polio at age 27). Nothing slowed them down.
“Both had a great sense of humor, and Ruthie was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I’ve known. She was always a joyous, happy and humble person,” said Flynt, describing the couple who died in 2003 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
“I remember when she asked our group to pray for one of her sons, who was riding his bike home from Vanderbilt and camping along the way. I thought it was remarkable that she could let go of concern enough to allow him to have such an adventure.”
Platinum Sponsors of the Legacy Award evening were BankPlus and Sanderson Farms. FedEx Corp. was the Gold Sponsor, while Cooper Communities, Inc., mTrade, Yates Foundation and the Medical Center were Silver Sponsors. Regions Bank, Gertrude C. Ford Foundation and Butler Snow were Bronze Sponsors.
“I am extremely proud for BankPlus to partner with the Ole Miss Women’s Council to honor Dr. and Mrs. Guyton,” said Bill Ray, president of the bank. “Their remarkable lives touched thousands of people and they are a shining example of what the Legacy Award recognizes.”
Mike Cockrell, chief legal and financial officer and treasurer of Sanderson Farms, agreed.
“At Sanderson Farms, we were extremely pleased to support the Legacy Award event honoring Dr. and Mrs. Guyton, whose contributions in Mississippi and beyond are incomparable. They not only shared themselves but also shared their family with us as well.”
For information on supporting the Ole Miss Women’s Council, contact Meg Sinervo, development officer, at 662-915-7273 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from the event will help strengthen educational opportunities for OMWC scholars. Male and female students are eligible for the scholarships, which are among some of the largest at Ole Miss and are accompanied by mentoring, leadership training, travel and more.
“The time we devote to our scholarship recipients reminds me of a lesson we can learn from Ruth Guyton,” said Mary Susan Gallien-Clinton of Naples, Florida, chair of the OMWC. “Intentional time and attention that we can give young people will pay great dividends in their personal lives and careers.”
By Tina H. Hahn