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In Memoriam: Schiffert Health Center namesake Charles W. Schiffert

October 7, 2016

Charles W. Schiffert
Charles W. Schiffert is interviewed by Laura Sands.

Charles W. Schiffert, director of Virginia Tech’s Student Health Services from 1971 to 1986, died Thursday. He was 95.

Schiffert came to Virginia Tech as a staff physician in 1968 and was promoted to assistant director one year later. Before arriving at Virginia Tech, Schiffert worked 18 years in private medical practice. He was a graduate of Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and spent three years as a U.S. Army physician before becoming a general practitioner.

Schiffert is credited with transforming Student Health Services from a small office with only two full-time physicians to a department with 10 full-time practitioners. He established a Nurses Clinic, where nurses provided triage and treatment; Allergy Clinic; Women's Clinic; and pharmacy. Schiffert is also credited with founding the Middle Atlantic College Health Association, for which he served as president from 1977 to 1979.

Schiffert was one of the first directors of health services in the country to establish a Student Health Advisory Committee to obtain student input, and he created a health education unit to provide educational outreach to residence halls and student organizations, as well as in-house education for staff and students. He is credited with having had a significant impact on the academic careers and lives of many Virginia Tech students suffering from emotional problems by making  psychiatric counseling sessions and medical treatment available and by working with the Cook Counseling Center to develop a 24-hour on-call crisis-intervention program. 

In 1998, the Board of Visitors approved a resolution to name the Student Health Services Center in honor of Schiffert. The Charles W. Schiffert Health Center is located in McComas Hall.

Sheila Walker–Davis, a current employee of the Schiffert Health Center who was hired by Schiffert 39 years ago said, “Dr. Schiffert was an innovator who began the practice of preventative health care at Virginia Tech by establishing health education as an important component of collegiate student health.

“Dr. Schiffert’s organization and his dedication to collegiate student health established a firm foundation for the future of health services, and his ‘white glove’ test became a well-known standard for all employees of the health center," said Walker-Davis. "It became a practice that established the quality of excellence that Dr. Schiffert had for his chosen profession."

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Patty Chitwood, hired by Schiffert in 1981, said, “Dr. Schiffert was the epitome of a wonderful director. He had high expectations of his staff and knew every single facet of the operation. He knew every person and about their families. He expected us to give our all, but he always gave more. If we were here long hours, he was here longer. The building is appropriately named for him.”

When once asked if he had children, Schiffert replied that he had 19,120, which just happened to be Virginia Tech’s enrollment at the time. Both during his tenure and after his retirement in 1986, Schiffert was committed to the health and well-being of Virginia Tech students – so much so that in 2008, Schiffert established the Dolores S. Schiffert Health Education Endowment. The endowment was created in honor of his wife of more than 50 years, who died in November 2007. Dolores Schiffert was also a nurse, and Schiffert created the endowment with hopes of addressing preventable health problems and as a way to honor his late wife’s wit, zest for life, and partnership.

There will be no service for Schiffert. He will be laid to rest in Pennsylvania with his wife.  Memorial gifts to honor Schiffert’s legacy can be made to the Schiffert Health Center or the Dolores S. Schiffert Health Education Endowment via the Virginia Tech Foundation.

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