He values the individuality and unique situation of each doctor, nurse and patient he oversees as the director of the hematology/oncology division for Alameda County Hospital in Oakland, California.
Irwin discovered that personal approach at Houghton, modeled by the professors who helped him along his unconventional academic path. When he began in 1973 as a history major with the intent of going to law school, former history professor and division chair Dr. Katherine (Walberger ’43) Lindley advised him on not only what courses to take but also how to approach studying as an academician. She also instilled in him a love of learning for its own sake.
He found personal enrichment through his chapel experiences as well, particularly through speakers such as John Leax, professor emeritus of English, whose talks inspired Irwin to reflect on his own Christian experience and development.
During his senior year, as he was completing his requirements for a history major, Irwin began exploring science classes, starting with a general biology course. Dr. Don Munro, former chair of the biology department and mentor for pre-med students, was confident that the young man could succeed in both the humanities and the sciences. According to Irwin, “I felt [as if] I had been given enough of the key components to go into whatever discipline I wanted, and I was encouraged to do that.”
After graduation Irwin served for a year with the Salvation Army. He returned to Houghton in 1979 to add a year of science courses in preparation for medical school. It was former chemistry professor Dr. Larry Christensen who affirmed Irwin’s decision to return. Although he had taught Irwin in only one class prior to that year away, Christensen remembered him and gave him a “welcome back” as he read the roster. It was a greeting that struck a chord with Irwin and reminded him of all that he valued most about Houghton.
Irwin is enthusiastic about giving back to the place that helped shape his spiritual and academic growth. He sees his giving as personal, be it to the Student Scholarship Fund, the Paine Science Center or athletics: “I like to think that I’m giving to a particular person—whomever that person may be—who’s going to benefit from whatever we can do to make [Houghton] the best it can possibly be.”