Comfortable in a changing world, yet holding fast to his own exacting standards, Dr. H. Mead Cavert was a key figure in the growth of the University of Minnesota Medical School during nearly four decades as a professor and administrator. Cavert, 94, a longtime Minneapolis resident, died Nov. 4.
Cavert grew up in Anoka and served as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Returning from the war, he earned a medical degree and a doctorate in physiology at the University of Minnesota, then joined the medical school in 1953. In addition to teaching, Cavert served for many years as an associate dean, in charge of the overall operations of the school.
“I called him the day-to-day dean,” said Dr. Paul Quie, a professor emeritus at the school. “He was just such a model of integrity and ability. Everything ran like clockwork when Mead Cavert was in charge.”
Yet friends and family praised him for his personal warmth and approachability as much as for his professional rigor. For many years, Cavert and his wife, June, hosted a reception in their home for students of each new entering medical school class and their significant others, helping the young scholars transition to their new careers.
“He had a wonderful, generous spirit,” Quie said. “I admired him so much.”
Cavert’s grandson, William Cavert, remembered him as “earnest and yet lighthearted, optimistic and just plain happy.”
“Despite helping to institute systematic computing at the medical school in 1964, he remained uninterested in using a personal computer,” William Cavert said. “He took it as a matter of course that granddaughters should pursue higher education and have career ambitions.
“He was oblivious to popular music, perhaps because he knew an endless number of camp songs, university rousers and hymns written before the invention of rock ’n’ roll. He enjoyed theater and was willing to give new productions a try, but preferred old favorites like Shakespeare and the Guthrie’s annual ‘Christmas Carol.’
“In short, he was slow to change his own habits, and yet did not mind as the world changed around him,” William Cavert said.
One prime example occurred on Cavert’s retirement, said his son, Harlan. Cavert rode his bike to work at a time when that was uncommon, especially for academic professionals, and became known around campus as “the bicycling dean.”
When he retired, his colleagues presented him with a fancy new bicycle.
“But he never really used it,” Harlan Cavert said. “He preferred instead to stick with his trusty old, well-worn, one-speed bike.”
Cavert also was an avid outdoorsman who took Boundary Waters trips into his 80s. He developed a long relationship with the University YMCA, which created the H. Mead Cavert Ethical Leadership Award in his honor.
Among his other accomplishments, Cavert was a founder of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars to support research at the university. He authored a widely used textbook and was instrumental in creating a medical school program that trained young physicians for practice in underserved Minnesota communities.
In addition to his wife, son and grandson, Cavert is survived by another son, Winston; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
All are welcome at a memorial service planned for Jan. 8, 2017, at 2 p.m. at Central Lutheran Church, 333 S. 12th St., Minneapolis. Visitation begins at 1 p.m.