Norman Maurice Kenyon, M.D. ’56
The Miller School of Medicine alumni community recently lost one of its earliest members; someone who played an integral part in our legacy. Norman M. Kenyon, M.D. ’56, (1929-2020), gifted surgeon, teacher, and mentor, passed away on April 4, 2020. He was 90.
Dr. Kenyon’s life and career were intricately intertwined with the Miller School’s rich history. Often invited as a keynote speaker for events at the University, he imparted valuable wisdom from a career that spanned more than six decades and recounted stories about the school’s earliest days, when he and his classmates attended the very first classes at the VA’s annex, now the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. His class paved the way for a succession of physicians.
Dr. Kenyon was intensely proud of his ties to the University, which began in 1952 when the UM medical school accepted him into its inaugural class of 28 students from a pool of 350 applicants. This unique and intimate training environment sparked a love for medicine that would last a lifetime, and also led him to serve as president of the school’s Medical Alumni Association.
“His passion for medicine was extraordinary,” said daughter, Norma Kenyon, Ph.D., UM’s vice provost for innovation and Miller School’s chief innovation officer. “He loved it, and the U.”
Born and raised in Clearwater, Florida, Dr. Kenyon attended Emory University prior to heading to Miami to join the U. He graduated in 1956 as president of the first graduating class of the future Miller School of Medicine. The very next day he married Sue Underwood, his wife of 64 years, and soon after began his five-year surgical residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Sue worked as a nurse and all three of their daughters were born. During his residency at Jackson, Dr. Kenyon operated the heart pump during the first open-heart surgery performed in Florida.
Dr. Kenyon went on to build a distinguished career in private practice, working at multiple area hospitals, where he forged a reputation as a uniquely skilled surgeon and generous mentor. During his “retirement,” he continued to work with Norma at the Miller School’s Diabetes Research Institute, undertaking research aimed at finding a cure for type 1 diabetes.
His other two daughters, Cynthia Kenyon Drake, an exercise physiologist, and Pamela Kenyon, a physician assistant, also inherited their father’s appreciation for the medical field. In addition to his wife and three daughters, he is survived by five grandchildren — Caroline, Laura, Clinton, Taylor, and Carlysle.
Dr. Kenyon’s unwavering passion for medicine, quiet wisdom, and generosity touched countless patients, colleagues, students, and friends, leaving an indelible mark on the community. His devotion to his alma mater has left a legacy for many generations to come, as alumni far and wide wrote to express their heartfelt condolences.
“Norm’s patients adored him,” said Arthur Gilbert, M.D., ’57, who was a year behind Dr. Kenyon in medical school and served as a surgical resident at Jackson with him. “His easy-yet-direct communication skill served him well with patients, colleagues, and in his many hospital leadership roles. He was a great family man who adored his house full of girls. I feel privileged to have known him.”
“Norm was alumni president when I was in medical school,” said Steven Chavoustie, M.D. ’81. “The greatest moment for me was my first case of operating with him. I was in awe of this man.”
“He was a maestro in the operating theater,” said Alan Serure, M.D. ’79, who worked with Dr. Kenyon. “His hands moved like a conductor of an orchestra. Most surgeons would secure their knots three or four times. Dr. Kenyon only used two; his knots were perfect every time.”
President of the first graduating class of UM’s medical school and Iron Arrow member, the late Norman M. Kenyon, M.D., with daughter, Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., at her 2013 induction ceremony into the University’s Iron Arrow Honor Society.