Time out with T.O. - Stan the Century Man

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC strategic communications (retired) | November 13, 2020

Image with caption: Stan Truhlsen, MD

Stan Truhlsen, MD

Stan Truhlsen, MD, is a marvel.

As he rolls toward his 100th birthday today, the legendary ophthalmologist/philanthropist is still sharp as a tack.

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From left, Ronald Krueger, MD, chair of the UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute, and Stan Truhlsen, MD

There's no magic involved in becoming a centenarian, Dr. Truhlsen said -- "just good genes. Both my parents lived into their 80s."

He's no doubt making it sound easier than it is -- only one in every 6,000 people will reach the age of 100.

Born in the tiny town of Herman, Nebraska (30 miles northwest of Omaha/population 265), Stan considers himself lucky to have grown up in a small community.

His father Henry ("Spike") wore many different hats -- serving as mayor, running a hardware/furniture store and -- oh yeah, handling Herman's mortician needs. His mother, Lola, was the traditional homemaker taking care of Stan and his two sisters.

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Stan Truhlsen, MD, at home

"It was fun to grow up in a small town," Dr. Truhlsen said. "You knew everybody, but they knew you, so you had to behave.

"The way I was raised you helped your hometown. You gave back to make it better. People all worked together. I remember the town coming together to build a grandstand at the ballpark."

Dr. Truhlsen learned the giving lesson especially well. His generosity can be seen throughout the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus with major donations to several initiatives. His pride and joy -- the Truhlsen Eye Institute -- opened in 2013 at 40th and Leavenworth streets.

See a photo album of Dr. Truhlsen

Five years later, he funded the skywalk connection between TEI and the Lauritzen Outpatient Center & Fritch Surgery Center.

Much of Dr. Truhlsen's philanthropy resulted from another connection he had with one of his patients -- a chap by the name of Warren Buffett.

Endowed chair honors 'Squeak'

Stan Truhlsen, MD, lost his first wife, Ruth, in 1976 after 33 years of marriage. Together, they had four children -- Bill, Nancy, Stan Jr. and Barb.

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Stanley Truhlsen Jr.

Stan Jr. was known as "Squeak" for the unusual sound he used to make when he was a small baby.

A golf professional during his career, Squeak was much beloved by his family and many friends. He died two years ago at the age of 67 following a bout with cancer.

To honor Squeak, who was a staunch supporter of the Truhlsen Eye Institute and the Wiegel-Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, the Truhlsen family established the Stanley Truhlsen Jr. Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology.

The endowed chair allowed UNMC/Nebraska Medicine to recruit Steven Yeh, MD, an internationally renowned expert in uveitis, infectious eye disease and vitreoretinal surgery. For the past 10 years, Dr. Yeh has served as an endowed chair at Emory University in Atlanta. He will begin his new position at UNMC next spring.

"I believe Dr. Yeh will have a transformative impact on the trajectory of our growth as a Great Plains regional referral center in uveitis and as a nationally recognized center of excellence in uveitis research, education and clinical care," said Ronald Krueger, MD, professor and chair, UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute.

"His presence will no doubt inspire others to join us, as we continue to grow our faculty into a collaborative team of leading experts in all subspecialty services of ophthalmology."

Stan recognized how sharp Buffett was in the stock market. "When he would leave my office, I would ask him, 'Got any good hints?' He would give me some suggestions. Within six months or a year, I would usually double my money."

In 1960, Buffett wanted to expand his operation, so he asked a UNMC physician, William Angle, MD, to try to find some other physicians who might be willing to invest $10,000 each in his partnership.

Dr. Truhlsen was one of about 18 physicians tabbed by Dr. Angle to come to a meeting in Dr. Angle's garage.

"Most decided not to invest. Warren was only 30 years old at the time," Dr. Truhlsen said. "I remember one of the doctors saying, 'He's liable to take the money and go to South America.'"

Buffett guaranteed the original investors a 6% return, but he said he couldn't tell them what he was doing with their money until the end of the year.

Fortunately, Stan trusted Warren and took the plunge. More than 60 years later, they remain good friends.

Buffett, who turned 90 on Aug. 30, jokes, "I just hope when I hit 100 that I can be the same cheerful and useful citizen that he is. They simply don't come any better than Stan."

Birthday banner displayed

At 11 a.m. today, Dr. Truhlsen and his family will drive by the Truhlsen Eye Institute, where mask-wearing staff members will greet them while socially distanced and display a birthday banner. UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Ronald Krueger, MD, chair of the UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute, also will be among those greeting Dr. Truhlsen.

Ruth Scott, legendary philanthropist for UNMC/University of Nebraska and a longtime investor in Buffett's company, had high praise for Dr. Truhlsen, "Stan truly epitomizes the Berkshire Hathaway 'culture' -- buy-hold-accumulate, but consider it a sin to 'die rich,'" she said.

While his investments grew, so did Dr. Truhlsen's ophthalmology career.

He was elected president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the nation's largest organization of physicians specializing in eye care. He also served as president of the American Ophthalmological Society, the Ophthalmology Research Foundation, the Nebraska Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Omaha Ophthalmology Society.

Today, his name graces the AAO's Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye in San Francisco, the only free, public museum dedicated to the fascinating science of sight.

NU Foundation establishes Second Century Fund

In celebration of Dr. Truhlsen's 100th birthday, the University of Nebraska Foundation has created a new fund in his honor -- the Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D., Second Century Fund.

"The fund will provide the margin of excellence to recruit and support outstanding leaders in ophthalmology and continue Dr. Truhlsen's legacy for the next century," said Ronald Krueger, MD, professor and chair, UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and director of the Truhlsen Eye Institute. "This fund will be a game changer for our department."

The Second Century Fund will benefit initiatives such as:

  • Recruitment of top-level scientists for research in age-related eye diseases for TEI's Center for Advanced Research in Eye Health and Macular Degeneration (CARE MD);
  • Expansion of space and services to provide tissues for transplantation, research and education through the TEI Lion's Eye Bank of Nebraska; and
  • Subspecialty Eye Care and Education (SEE) focusing on specialized areas not currently well supported in Nebraska such as uveitis, inherited ocular disorders and ocular oncology.

You can donate to Second Century Fund here. For more information, contact Matt Pohren, director of development, Nebraska Medicine, University of Nebraska Foundation, at 402-504-3338.

Dr. Truhlsen's interest in becoming an ophthalmologist spawned from his internship at the Albany Medical Center in New York.

"We spent extra time in pathology, and I had to go to the library to learn more about organs such as the liver and the eye. The more I studied the eye, the more interested I became," he said. "It's a little organ - smaller than a golf ball. It's an amazing thing how the eye can send messages to the brain.

"I really enjoyed being an ophthalmologist. It's a clean-cut specialty. It's very satisfying that people come to you with problems seeing and you help them see again."

Truhlsen's youngest of four children, Barb Mitchell, lives in Dallas, but keeps in close touch with her father.

She is blown away by all her father has done.

"He was a tremendous eye surgeon. Over the years, it seemed like he was always receiving notes or small homemade gifts from grateful patients because he had saved their sight.

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Stan Truhlsen, MD, at the Truhlsen Eye Institute.

"Stan is completely remarkable. At 100, he's still independent and has a great, sly sense of humor. He can walk, talk and even text, and his long-term memory is incredible. He even goes to a monthly investment club. He's been a great father. He's incredibly positive and cheerful. He's also one of the smartest men I've ever known."

Stan and Dottie, his wife of 39 years, are still living at home and receive assistance from a caregiver. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept the family close. Each Thursday at 3 p.m., the "Truhlsen Tribe" gets on a Zoom call. Stan continues to check his email regularly and even dabbles a little with Facebook.

"It's been a great ride," he said. "I've got a wonderful family, a wonderful bride. I enjoyed my practice and my profession. I loved to golf and made some great friends. I've been very lucky."

Not as lucky as we have, Stan. Hope you have an extra piece of cake on your special day.

See more about Dr. Truhlsen's career.

NOTE: If you would like to wish Dr. Truhlsen a happy birthday, please feel free to share your comment below.

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Stacie Hamel
November 16, 2020 at 1:12 PM

Happy to birthday to a UNMC legend! And great job, T.O.

Courtney Hellman
November 15, 2020 at 12:29 PM

Dear Dr. Truhlsen, I was recovering from brain surgery during your birthday visit, so I was not able to wave during your celebration, but I wish you a wonderful 100th year! I have known you since I was a little girl, from seeing you at Countryside, with my family. Buzz Madson is my father, now retired, but I visited with my parents and they wanted to also wish you the happiest birthday! I now work at the Truhlsen Eye Institute and am so impressed with the the amazing generosity of your family. From the initial training I did at 40th and Dewey to the new facility, it is wonderful to see the differences. It is so special to treat the patients and teach our residents in such an amazing place. Thank you for being so inspirational to so many people through the years! With my sincerest wishes for many more happy years, I wish you an amazing birthday month and I hope you enjoyed your birthday cake. You are truly a great man! Courtney (Madson) Hellman

Ali Keller
November 14, 2020 at 11:33 PM

On top of all of his wonderful accomplishments, he’s an amazing grandfather and great grandfather. Happiest 100th birthday wishes to you! We love you!!

Sandy Goetzinger-Comer
November 14, 2020 at 12:46 PM

Happy birthday and a sincere thanks for you expertise and generosity!! I was fortunate to be a patient a long while ago and was so impressed with your care. Many blessings!!

Carmen Sirizzotti
November 14, 2020 at 9:09 AM

Happy Birthday! Wishing you have a wonderful day with family and friends.

Dele Davies
November 14, 2020 at 6:15 AM

Happy Birthday Dr. Truhlsen! You are an inspiration to so many and.have been such a wonderful asset and ambassador for UNMC and the Omaha community.

William Truhlsen
November 13, 2020 at 5:52 PM

Happy birthday dad, I am glad we have had so many good years together.

Joan Truhlsen
November 13, 2020 at 5:45 PM

A friend of mine once described Stan as a “king among men.” I couldn’t agree more! Happy 100th Birthday, Doc!

Kay Zanotti
November 13, 2020 at 4:49 PM

Dr Truhlsen, I am john Zanotti’s wife and I simply adore Erin, and her mom Nancy . I now see where they got their great genes! Happy 100 th birthday and thanks for your tremendous contributions to medicine !!

Amos
November 13, 2020 at 12:13 PM

Happy birthday!!! What a remarkable life!!!

Nancy Truhlsen Brager
November 13, 2020 at 11:41 AM

Happy 100 Dad.....love you nini

Pat Jones
November 13, 2020 at 9:16 AM

Pat Jones "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." Dr. Truhlsen, you have truly brought sunshine to many lives, including the lives of our patients at the Weigel Williamson Low Vision Center. Your generous support of the Weigel Williamson Center is much appreciated. May the sun continue to shine on your days ahead.

Chandra Are
November 13, 2020 at 9:02 AM

Dr. Truhlsen, Your life story espouses some of the most amazingly graceful values of a human being. At a time when humanity is facing a crisis, your birthday is exactly what is needed to add some brightness and cheer. What a remarkable life! Happy birthday! Chandra Are

Kathy Austin
November 13, 2020 at 8:46 AM

Happy Birthday Dr Truhlsen! I am so honored by your friendship through the Department of Ophthalmology for going on 3 decades. You are one of the kindest people I know. Thank you for your wisdom, encouragement and leadership!

Carrie Meyer
November 13, 2020 at 8:31 AM

Happy Birthday Dr. Truhlsen! Thank you for all you've done and continue to do for so many in our community. You are a special person and it is a pleasure to know and work with you to preserve the heritage and history of the health sciences in Nebraska. Sincerest and best wishes on this and every day. -- Carrie Meyer

donny suh
November 13, 2020 at 8:24 AM

Stan truly made a difference in the world of ophthalmology and in Nebraska. We are very proud of him for his generosity, philanthropy, and his contribution to the medical field. Very proud to call him a friend and a colleague. Happy Birthday, Stan!

Karen Burbach
November 13, 2020 at 8:21 AM

Happy Birthday, Dr. Truhlsen! Thank you for all you have done for UNMC, the Omaha community and the field of ophthalmology.

Amy Steinauer
November 13, 2020 at 7:57 AM

Happy Birthday Dr. Truhlsen!! I have enjoyed hosting you in the past at the retired physician's event. My first job here was with Bill Angle. He was an amazing man as well. Thank you for all you have done for our campus! May your 100th year bring many "firsts".

Carol Russell
November 13, 2020 at 7:57 AM

CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You have been a joy to know and I feel very lucky to have worked with you and Prevent Blindness Nebraska. Best to you, Dottie and your family. Carol Russell

Lisa Runco
November 13, 2020 at 7:17 AM

Happy 100th Birthday to an Omaha legend! Best wishes Dr. Truhlsen, thank you for all you have done for our community.

Terry Hexum
November 13, 2020 at 6:20 AM

Happy Birthday Dr. Truhlsen! You and I first met in the early seventies after we were appointed to one of the ever-present committees of the College of Medicine. My memory is vague but I believe it was the search committee which resulted in the appointment of Perry Rigby as College of Medicine Dean. I recall you as a beacon in a somewhat hazy environment in my early days at UNMC. Fortunately we have seen each other over the years and you never forgot who I am even though we met when I had only just begun my career at UNMC. You have continued to provide the beacon as well as tremendous support for so many of us in the College as well as the Medical Center. You are owed a thank you that does not truly reflect all you have done. Regardless, THANK YOU! It is a pleasure and honor to know you. Terry Hexum