For one young teenager from Uganda, David Stager ’53 opened the door to education and the possibility of one day becoming a priest. Stager, a pediatric ophthalmologist practicing in Dallas, operated pro bono with his son David on the teenager named Petero to straighten the youngster’s eyes. The Discovery Channel featured the surgery performed by the Stagers in a program that aired in 2007. Petero suffered from a genetic disorder called Crouzon Syndrome and came to Dallas for treatment with the help of the World Craniofacial Foundation. The disorder causes the skull bones to fuse too early and leads to abnormal growth of the head, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The people in Petero’s village thought he was cursed, so he was not allowed to attend school before the surgery.
At 73, Stager still works 10-hour days six days a week and keeps fit through daily cardio training on a stationary bike and elliptical machine and by lifting weights. He contends that he owes his good fortune and blessings to the four years he spent at Gilmour. He noted that classmate Neal Lavelle ’53 used to say that lucky breaks come to those who work hard.
“I think a close relationship to God enhances one’s lucky breaks,” Stager says. “Gilmour had a lot to do with that philosophy.”
The alum recalled that his father, also a physician, valued a well-rounded education that included spirituality, academics, and athletics – ideals Gilmour stressed – for his sons David, Peter ’52, Paul ’55, and Daniel ’57. David Stager entered Gilmour in 1949 with 28 other freshmen. He has fond memories of being taught by John Gale, Brother Ivo Regan, C.S.C., and the other Holy Cross Brothers; going to daily chapel; and working on the “Hall Crier.” He believes his nomination for freshman class president by Bob Leland ’53 “may have provided the impetus for me to strive academically.”
Following his graduation from Gilmour, Stager attended Holy Cross College and earned his baccalaureate degree from John Carroll University. He earned his master’s degree and medical degree from The Ohio State University Medical School, where he completed a residency in ophthalmology. After serving in the
U.S. Army, he accepted a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and, in 1968, began his Dallas practice aimed at improving eye care for children and adults. Stager’s distinguished work led to his selection to present the keynote address before the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology in 2000. His current passion involves educating fellow physicians regarding treatment for adults with misaligned eyes. The Gilmour graduate is listed in “The Best Doctors in America,” and he has been a guest lecturer at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard University among other distinguished schools, at the Cleveland Clinic, and in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.
Stager and his wife, Patricia, enjoy traveling, especially to England, and have four children. On a recent visit to Gilmour for his 55th reunion, he reveled in the birth of the first granddaughter on his side of the family in 100 years, and she was born on his birthday to boot.