Admissions Dean Andy Frantz Dies at 80

Andrew G. Frantz, MD
May 22, 1930 – June 18, 2010     

Andy Frantz in 2007Andrew G. Frantz, M.D., a P&S faculty member since 1966, chair of the admissions committee at P&S for 29 years, and the first chief of the Department of Medicine’s endocrine division, died June 18 in New York City. The 1955 graduate of P&S turned 80 a few weeks before his death.

He was highly regarded for his dedication and talent in choosing students for acceptance to P&S. Serving as chair of the admissions committee for nearly 30 years – longer than anyone else in the history of P&S – he said that, all things being equal, he would base his admissions decision on the answer to this question: “If I were sick, would I want this person to come into my room as my physician?” For the class of 2013, the current first-year class, Dr. Frantz interviewed 149 of the 1,096 applicants interviewed (by far the most interviewees among a panel of 30 interviewers); 28 of the students Dr. Frantz interviewed are now enrolled at P&S. He also was a supporter of the P&S Club, considering it to be a good selling point for the school. “My gosh! There’s no other school that puts on three full-scale productions every year.” He started attending rugby matches and rarely missed the annual John Wood’76 Memorial Tournament.

As professor of medicine, Dr. Frantz was known for his pioneering work on human prolactin. He devised a landmark bioassay allowing for the hormone’s accurate measurement in human blood. The discovery had major clinical implications, leading to the connection between human prolactin and its role in producing pituitary tumors.

A native of New York and the son of two P&S faculty members, Dr. Frantz left the city to attend Harvard, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in English. After graduation from P&S and training in medicine at what was Presbyterian Hospital, he completed a fellowship in endocrinology with Dr. Joseph Jailer. Dr. Frantz served two years as a lieutenant commander in the Navy at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Memphis and joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Though he was invited to stay at Harvard, he returned to New York and joined the Department of Medicine at P&S in 1966; he was named full professor of medicine in 1973. He was chief of endocrinology for 17 years.

Dr. Frantz’s families ties to P&S strengthened his bond to the medical school. His father, Angus MacDonald Frantz’22, a psychiatrist-neurologist, and mother, Virginia Kneeland Frantz’22, a surgical pathologist and the first woman to train in surgery at Presbyterian Hospital, both taught on the faculty of P&S. His maternal uncle, Yale Kneeland’26, was also a prominent member of the P&S faculty.

Click here to read a profile of Dr. Frantz that appeared in the Winter/Spring 2010 issue of P&S Journal.







In Tribute: January 20, 2010 Alumni Council Meeting

After a portrait of Andy Frantz was unveiled in Bard Hall on Jan, 20, 2010, Dr. Frantz attended the meeting of the Alumni Council, where several tributes were offered to supplement the afternoon festivities. Below are some of the tributes, excerpted from the council meeting minutes submitted by George F. McKinley’80.

By Kenneth A. Forde’59
Columbia University Trustee

Those of you who were across the street at Bard Hall know what a wonderful, warm, and, in many ways, edifying session that was. Many of us shared things about Andy and his work with us at various levels and various activities and I don’t want to bore those of you who were over there with what I said before but I want you to hear at least what perspective I had on Andy and delivered across the street. I pointed out that we are here, as we are tonight, to honor a very, very special man whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing for 50 years. His mother, Dr. Virginia Kneeland Frantz, was one of my beloved teachers, as was his uncle.

Andy earned enormous, appropriate respect for his academic achievements. But he is also known for his lifelong commitment to P&S and this Alumni Association. And as I speak for the Alumni Association we have benefitted enormously from your investment over these many decades in assuring that P&S continues to have among its students not only the brightest but, in many diverse ways, the best, certainly the most interesting and the most talented in any medical school in the country. And it’s due in large measure to your leadership and selection. And, as you yourself have often hinted, an interesting student does often become an outstanding alumnus.

Your charge of the Alumni Day program over the years, with your penchant for demanding rigorous scientific content as well as a representative spectrum on the presentations of subjects from various anniversary alumni, has become legendary. Your tenure as an officer of the P&S Alumni Association was noted for its seriousness of purpose, eloquent presentations, and collegial spirit. Even your perfunctory treasurer’s report assuring us of the solvency of the organization became an anticipated constant. But tonight I also speak on behalf of Columbia University as a whole and wish to thank you for your part in working hard year after year for many decades to ensure that we continue to attract strong, interesting, contributing candidates to our university and its medical school, thus maintaining and enhancing our reputation.

As I told you before, Andy, there are many who wished to speak and many people who wished to come tonight but could not do so, but they all expressed some of the sentiments, and more, we have expressed to you already. We must remember what Edward Bulwer-Lytton said (I have to have a little bit of poetry for Andrew): “When we the high heart magnify, and sure vision celebrate, and worship greatness passing by, ourselves are great.”

By P. Roy Vagelos’54

It’s a real pleasure to be here this evening and to have an opportunity to say something about Andy because, as many of you know, I left P&S in 1954 and was away until about five years ago when I was attracted to return for various reasons and become involved in a number of small activities that have brought me into contact with faculty, researchers, and many students. It has been a great experience. Perhaps the greatest experience is getting to know some of the great people at P&S. And Andy Frantz is one of those great people.

When I think of an academic career I think of someone who is dedicated to learning new things and to teaching. So that boils down to research and working with students. Andy Frantz, with his career starting here (by the way, he was one year behind me at P&S), went to the Mass General Hospital where he built his research career and continued it here.

His research was profound. He studied the growth hormone at the time with the technology that was available and then determined this other factor that had been theorized and that people had been chasing for a number of years, prolactin, could in fact be measured and he devised a measurement for and then described all the physiology, all the biologic effects of prolactin in disease and in normal development. And so he built an enormously important research career and made an impact on science, solid science.

He then was attracted and invited to move into the office of admissions and soon became the head of the office of admissions. What kind of person would get into this and go through the grueling annual review of so many applications and go through the agony of selection? Andy Frantz made this an art. He took it over and embodied the best of what could be done by selecting the kinds of people who would become outstanding physicians. That’s what he brought to P&S. These physicians went in many directions, but he influenced lives, generations after generations of physicians, who then influenced the lives of generations after generations of patients.

And so his impact on medicine has been incredible and it’s been largely in the last 25 years through students. And the students, we've learned, and I must say I’ve met with Andy over the last several years at a number of occasions, usually at lunch, so I don’t get to share these cocktails that he’s so addicted to and so we have met many times and I have heard his stories about research and mostly about students and the kinds of students that he was able to select. And it is a fact that P&S has stayed right at the top rank, being able to recruit the top students in the United States, among the top. And these students that come back, not only did he select them, he mentored them and was their adviser.

And so we’re here tonight, really, to celebrate a career which is probably the epitome of what you can obtain in the academic life -- great research which is filling many volumes of papers and journals, textbooks, but then an impact on students and patients that will go on forever. And so I think we are in a place where we’ve heard about it, we’ve seen it captured in a portrait which I love and, more importantly, Andy loves! And so, it’s a wonderful occasion and I am delighted to be here to congratulate Andy Frantz, to thank him for what he’s done for students for so many years, for what we understand in medicine, for science, for continuing to support everything we do. Thank you, Andy.


By Daniel Federman, M.D.

I have learned tonight that no life is perfect and that my error in going to Harvard Medical School rather than P&S can be ascribed to one of those youthful follies of which almost everyone here has a record at some time or other. I’ve been trying to think of things that haven’t been mentioned because so many things have been said in duplicate which is a risk when you have a large number of speakers.

So first, I want to talk about a feature of Andy that many of you may not have ever observed but I have watched it now for about 20 years. And that is his making of a martini on the occasion of having a visitor in the house. Andy’s very strict about this, never drinks alone, and so doesn’t have a martini or other drink when there’s no company, but my wife and I visited him a number of times and each time we saw the most remarkable combination of styles. Now, a martini is basically a rather stereotyped kind of drink. It doesn’t call for great inventiveness or difference from one night to another but Andy provided the stereotypic part of doing it elegantly, precisely, but also there was a kind of relaxed joy about it, in making it a little different from the night before. I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a martini, so I can’t vouch for the content or the result but I can tell you that it brought a gleam to his eye to do it each night and wonder in what respect it would be slightly different from the night before. It was beautiful to watch.

[Dr. Federman then observed that Dr. Frantz’s career may subtend the greatest arc in P&S history because he started as the son of a respected P&S professor, Virginia Kneeland Frantz, and continued on with his own long career. His three years at Mass General were his only time away from Columbia.]

Basically, Andy solved several problems in the identification of human hormones that had defied precise analysis before his efforts. One was whether there was any such thing as prolactin in the human separate from growth hormone. Others were, how could these hormones be so important in growth and yet come out after you go to sleep for an hour, or after you are in a stressful situation of some kind? His work threw light on those puzzles about two very important pituitary hormones.

[Dr. Federman then addressed “the other end of that arc” – admissions – calling attention to three important roles of the admissions committee: (1) “the quality of the class” (students at Harvard often say the greatest thing about medical school is their classmates); (2) often your best residents come out of the graduating class; (3) your faculty derives from this pool of residents.]

Thus, the tone of the place is set, with a few years delay, by the decisions of the admissions committee and the judgments it renders. The admissions committee is picking the students, the residents, the faculty, and the alumni. In that sense, this long trajectory that he has occupied reaches back to his mother and his uncle and his early training and forward for 40 or 50 years to the achievements and commitments of your alumni to P&S. I think that he has subtended a longer arc of connection with P&S than probably anybody else. And as I said this afternoon and repeat tonight, I don’t think anybody has done it anywhere any better. Thank you. My hat’s off to Andy.

Others who offered comments:

William Macaulay’92, Alumni Association president, recalled his admissions interview with Dr. Frantz in 1988. Sean Escalo’10 and second-year neurosurgery resident Christopher Kellner’08 gave accounts of how Dr. Frantz mentored them. The importance of being able to play rugby well was emphasized. Dr. Frantz knew Sean’s career path would be in psychiatry long before he did. Dr. Kellner emphasized Dr. Frantz’s wide cultural interests, particularly recalling a detailed discussion of the domestication of dogs in ancient Mesopotamia and noted that, no matter what topics were reviewed, Dr. Frantz’s signature quotation was: “The most important thing in life is people.” Christopher concluded with a few lines from a poem, “I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great,” that Dr. Frantz often quoted over the years:


The names of those who in their lives fought for life

Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.

Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.


A toast by Lee Goldman, M.D., dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences: “To Andy Frantz. No one is more responsible for everyone in this room and everyone who will be in this room for years to come than Andy Frantz! Hear, hear!”


Gifts in memory of Dr. Frantz can be made to the Andrew G. Frantz Scholarship Fund at P&S and mailed to the P&S Alumni Association, 630 W. 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.