M. Agnes Gowdey

Dr. M. Agnes Gowdey '29

1989 Distinguished Alumna Award

Dr. Agnes Gowdey '29 gave special meaning to the term “Carroll Pioneer.” Gowdey was a pioneering physician who began studying medicine during the Great Depression.  She broke new ground several times in her life by putting good thoughts into action. She started in 1935 when she was among the four percent of women who graduated from medical school. She attended the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania which was the only class for women in a medical school in the country at that time.   

Dr. Gowdey was orphaned at the age of 8 and spent much of her childhood around elderly relatives. Her sometimes lonely childhood and upbringing would influence her life’s work as she committed much of her future professional career to both the elderly and young children. Agnes started her career as a general practice physician in Philadelphia. In her nearly 40-year career, she participated in landmark studies on infant mortality, developed classes in sex education before they were fashionable, and led support groups for the elderly.  She operated two practices: a geriatrics practice in Philadelphia, and a family, obstetrics and pediatrics practice in Riverton, New Jersey.

Gowdey retired from her Philadelphia practice in 1972 and from her Riverton practice in 1977. When she began her “retirement” in 1977, she realized her long-term dream of founding the Tender Care, the first adult day care in New Jersey; and The Living Room, the first hospice and support group of its kind for families and caregivers of the elderly.  

Agnes named the center “The Tender” because, she explained, a tender is a small boat which makes short trips, carrying people and cargo from ship to shore when the ship can’t get to dock. Our precious cargo is the frail elderly. Dr. Gowdey continued her commitment and compassion for others throughout her retirement into her senior years. She died in 2005 at the age of 97.

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