Andrew Wexler ’67
May 25, 2010
“Good Morning. It is a pleasure to be here today to introduce this year’s recipient of the Laverack Family Alumni Award for 2010 —Andrew Wexler.
The Laverack Family Alumni Award was established by Applewild’s founding Headmaster, William Laverack, his wife, Persis Laverack, and his family to celebrate the values that Mr. Laverack held as most important in life: dedication and generosity – specifically, being generous with one’s time, one’s love and one’s life. The Laverack Family Alumni Award is presented annually to any alumna or alumnus whose life has, in an exemplary way, embodied Applewild’s mission and core values.
One of the core values that I want to highlight today is being civic-minded. What impresses me so much about Applewild today (versus when I was a student) are the many more numerous opportunities students are given to actively participate in the well-being of the community at large. Today students at Applewild take part in Hoops for Heart; raise money for UNICEF; support the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center; lead conservation projects; hold food drives; and complete recycling projects. Students as young as first grade even get involved with the local community by spending time at a local Head Start program getting kids (younger than they are) excited about reading. The history of Applewild students being civic-minded goes back to the days of Mr. Laverack and his family. And to before we were even an official school – when you think about the Crocker family donating this property as a school in service to the community. What impresses me even more about Applewild is that our alumni find themselves being worthy of this civic-minded heritage long after leaving the Applewild community.
I was looking at the alumni spotlights that we have on the Alumni section of our website, and there is a strong theme emerging from these profiles. Many of our alumni talk about the sense of community they experienced at Applewild and some speak of Applewild as being a grounding force in their life. For some, Applewild has grounded them in a love of life-long learning; some talk about being grounded in learning how to present themselves in public and others for just being able to get grounded in knowing themselves and their passions. While there can be many factors that can influence a person to lead a life of service, I would argue that the sense of community that Applewild students experience—and sometimes that experience is just being part of a learning community as small as ours—givesApplewild students a willingness to explore further and give of themselves even more because they know the power of community. Applewild students, through service opportunities and just by being an active member of the learning community learn the intrinsic value of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others.
Andrew Wexler is a shining example of Applewild’s mission and all of our core values. Throughout his career and in particular through his support of Operation Smile, Andrew has shown a commitment to being civic-minded. He has given most generously of his time, love and life to making a difference in the lives of communities and families across the world.
Andrew graduated from Applewild in 1967. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA where he is a plastic surgeon who specializes in craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery. Andrew spends a part of every year lecturing and leading missions with Operation Smile – a non-profit organization comprised of medical professionals who provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
According to the Operation Smile website: “More than 200,000 children are born with a severe cleft condition each year — often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. In some places these children are shunned and rejected. And in too many cases, their parents can’t afford to give them the surgeries they need to live a normal life…— through the help of dedicated medical volunteers (like Andrew Wexler) Operation Smile has provided free surgeries to children around the world.”
Over the years Andrew has been involved with Operation Smile, he has lead surgical missions in Kenya, Morocco, Brazil, Ecuador, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and India. And from 2006 – 2009 Andrew served as the International Chairman of the Surgical Advisory Board for Operation Smile.
Andrew is a graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover who went on to graduate from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Greek Studies. Andrew received his Masters in Physiology and Doctor of Medicine from Boston University. He then did five years of Surgical Residency Training at the University of Massachusetts followed by two years of Plastic Surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Andrew has been featured on CNN News for his work with Operation Smile along with Discovery Health Channel, and The Learning Channel. He is the recipient of the Kaiser Permanente Physicians Exceptional Contribution (Physician of the Year) Award (1997); Angels on Earth Foundation: Angel of Mercy Award for work on children in the developing world (2002); and Everyday Heroes Kaiser Permanente recognition for volunteer work in developing countries (2003).
Thank you, Andrew, for your service to children and families from around the world that would otherwise live in heartache and silence without your dedication, expertise, compassion and love.
On behalf of the Alumni Council it gives me great pleasure to introduce Andrew Wexler—the 2010 Laverack Family Alumni Award Recipient.
Dr. Wexler described his work with Operation Smile, an international not-for-profit medical services organization that provides free surgery to children with facial deformities in developing countries. The problem, he explained, is that one out every 500 births in resource-poor countries results in a cleft lip or palate or other facial deformity. These children and often their families are frequently ostracized from their society and culture. They do not go to school and they often remain shuttered in their homes unable to have a normal life simply because of their appearance. Dr. Wexler explained that by helping a single child return to a normal life, one also helps the family and in turn the community in which they live. “It is a little like throwing stones in a lake and watching the ripples move outward. With each surgery, we affect all those people who are connected with that child. If you do that enough times, in a small way you can change a bit of the world.” “My job,” he says, “is to stand on the shore of the lake and throw handfuls of stones into the water.” Dr. Wexler also emphasized to the students the importance of volunteering in one’s life to help others. The act of helping others creates a spirit of volunteerism that encourages others to contribute as well. “I always feel I get back so much more than I give when I lead these teams,” he said. ”There is a universal force that binds all people together no matter what their culture, and that is the love of parents for their children. No matter where you are in the world, parents want their children to be healthy, to have good lives, and to be happy. When you help a child, some of the energy of that love is passed on to you; and the feeling that one gets from that is as addicting as a drug and makes me want to return to volunteer again and again.”
In a follow-up session with the seventh grade, Dr. Wexler showed his photos and discussed the lives of those living in the underdeveloped world and how “the majority of the world population of six billion people lives far removed from the life and resources we take for granted in the developed world. At least 80%of humanity lives on under $10 a day, and one billion of us live on less than $2 a day. Over one billion people have inadequate access to water of any kind. More than one and a half billion people live without basic sanitation. One quarter of the world’s population has no electricity. And, at the start of the 21st century, one billion people could neither read nor write nor even sign their name. As for health care, one million people die every year of Malaria, 80%of them African children; and 1.8 million children die every year from diarrhea, often from the lack of clean water. In 2003, 10.6 million children died before they reached the age of five.” Dr. Wexler went on to explain how much money it would take to fix some of these problems and the priorities of the developed countries when it comes to that money. “We can provide basic education for the world’s children for six billion dollars and clean water and sanitation for nine billion more. We can provide basic health care and nutrition for 13 billion. In 1998 in the United States we spent eight billion on cosmetics, and Europe spent 11 billion on ice cream. Japan spent 35 billion in business entertainment, and Europeans spent 50 billion on cigarettes. The poor of the world who hate us, don’t hate us for our freedom, as some have wrongly suggested. They hate us for our selfishness and the inequalities they see in the world they live in.” A lively question and answer period followed, with the seventh graders displaying an impressive range of understanding and knowledge gained from their current geography class.