September 9, 2021

Celebrating 50th reunion, Steven Lauter '68, M.D. '71 honors parents with endowed scholarship

Born and raised in Detroit, Wayne State University School of Medicine alumnus Steven Lauter '68, M.D. '71 and his brothers were the first of their family to attend college.

Their parents had difficult times, so finances were tight, but Sadie and Reuben Lauter encouraged their children to focus on education. Dr. Lauter took his parents' guidance to heart, receiving full tuition scholarships and funding assistance for books and supplies for his undergraduate and medical degrees, both earned at WSU.

Sadie and Reuben Lauter on their wedding day.

"I have never forgotten that, and now on the occasion of my 50th reunion from the medical school, I feel the time is right to honor WSU, and my parents, who did so much to motivate and encourage my older brother Carl and me to pursue careers in medicine," Dr. Lauter said.

With his recent gift to the School of Medicine, Dr. Lauter created the Sadie and Reuben Lauter Endowed Scholarship to help lighten the financial burden for current and future generations of medical students.

Both sides of Dr. Lauter's family immigrated to the United States from Europe. Reuben Lauter moved to Detroit from what is now Ukraine, while his mother, Sadie Kaplowitz, was born in New York City to Russian parents. Sadie's family moved to Detroit and opened a kosher restaurant on Hastings Street, one of the largest Jewish settlements in southeast Michigan. While her parents worked, Sadie went to school. She attended Central High School and then transferred to graduate from the High School of Commerce. It served as a finishing school for female students in areas such as administrative skills, typing, penmanship, shorthand and bookkeeping. After graduation, Sadie held numerous positions, including a secretarial position at the North End Clinic, the precursor of DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. "During that job she developed a love and appreciation for the medical field, which likely influenced her to encourage us," Dr. Lauter said.

At the time, the city of Detroit was home to a robust community of Jewish immigrants. German and Central European Jews found their homes in the Hasting Street neighborhood around 1880, while Eastern European Jews arrived in metropolitan Detroit in the 20th century. Many more came to Detroit in the wake of WWII and the Holocaust. As the Jewish population grew, the community expanded to the 12th Street neighborhood. It was there that Sadie and Reuben started their life together as a married couple.

The Lauters had three sons: Carl, Ronald and Steven. Typical for their community at the time, Sadie and Reuben moved the family from small apartments to larger flats. Dr. Lauter said, "My older brother [Carl] reminded me that we were always cold and had difficulty convincing the landlord to increase the heat."

By the time their eldest son Carl was 9, the family purchased their first house, in the Dexter area. The neighborhood bustled with synagogues, grocery and drug stores, and kosher butcher shops, restaurants and delis. It fed into Roosevelt Elementary and Durfee Junior High School, which all of the boys attended. Carl and Ronald both graduated from Central High School, but Steven transferred to Mumford High School to participate in its Science and Arts Program.

"True to the American tradition," Dr. Lauter said, "my father was kind, quiet and reserved, known for his strong work ethic." Reuben balanced numerous jobs until he became a bartender, which led to co-owning and operating a small bar. Sadie's efforts were focused in the home, making sure the family had packed lunches and food on the dinner table. The family had Friday dinner together to light candles, and the boys were educated in the rituals and traditions of the Jewish faith, each having a bar mitzvah ceremony. "Despite being quite poor, my mother had several small tin tzedakah (charity) boxes into which she added small coins weekly. From an early age we learned it was important to care for other people who had even less than us," Dr. Lauter said.

Reuben developed lung cancer and died at age 56 years, when Dr. Lauter was still a student at Mumford High School. His father's untimely death put an enormous strain on Sadie, but she remained intently focused on seeing all of her sons through their education. Dr. Lauter's brothers were both attending Wayne State University, Carl in the School of Medicine and Ronald as an undergraduate studying education. Together, the boys chipped in to keep the household afloat, but Sadie made sure her sons' jobs didn't detract from their educational pursuits. She looked up to those in the medical profession and considered them to be honorable people who improved the world. "Doctors are esteemed and respected, and she wanted her children to be respected as well. She had the right idea with helping people, too," Dr. Lauter said, "My older brother Carl was also a graduate of the WSU School of Medicine and has always been a role model for me. He has had an esteemed career in the specialties of Infectious Disease and Allergy/Immunology, combining a career of clinical practice, teaching and research. We still enjoy long phone conversations discussing medical issues."

The Lauter family: (seated) Sadie, Steven and Reuben, (standing) Carl and Ronald

Sadie and Reuben imparted to their children the importance of education, family and charity, and each of these values greatly influenced the course of Dr. Lauter's life and career. He knew that he wanted to enter the medical field and attend Wayne State University for his undergraduate and medical degrees, so he put in the effort to earn scholarships that covered his full tuition, books and equipment. "Wayne State was my place. Everyone was so nice and allowed me to be at home, work part time and to help my mother so that she wasn't alone. The first two years were spent predominantly in the classroom, but the latter years were especially enjoyable as I rotated through the major specialties and electives. At Wayne, I had wonderful professors and role models, which further cemented my love for medicine."

After graduating from the School of Medicine in 1971, Dr. Lauter completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Though he moved briefly for a stint as a major in the U.S. Air Force and a fellowship in Rheumatology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, St. Louis became his home base. Dr. Lauter practiced Rheumatology and Internal Medicine as a member of a multispecialty group from 1978 to 2016 while also serving as a clinical faculty member at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he trained students, residents and fellows. He later joined the faculty part time until his retirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family remains integral to Dr. Lauter. He married Sheryl "Sherri" Williams in 1974, and together they had two sons, Aaron and Robert. Sherri worked as an elementary school teacher and a pediatric counselor, and volunteered in their community for many organizations until her death from breast cancer in 1997. Dr. Lauter was grateful that both Sherri and his extended family were able to commemorate his mother Sadie's 80th birthday, as Sadie died in 1991 at the age of 84. Dr. Lauter later married Renie, also an educator, and mother of Marc, Jill and Katie. Since their marriage, the family has expanded to include spouses and six grandchildren.

Sadie and Steven Lauter, M.D. '71

These life experiences inspired Dr. Lauter to establish the Sadie and Reuben Lauter Endowed Scholarship at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. "People there were always so kind to me and went out of their way to support me. I've donated over the years, but I always looked forward to feeling comfortable enough that I could really do something more to honor my parents," he said. His scholarship is unique in that its funds are available for incoming medical students, which Dr. Lauter hopes will assist the School of Medicine in recruiting and graduating promising doctors who— much like him— couldn't afford to attend without financial assistance.

Recruiting scholarships such as the Sadie and Reuben Lauter Endowed Scholarship allow the School of Medicine to attract top candidates with excellent interpersonal communications skills, high cultural competence, relevant coursework, test scores and medical or research experience who demonstrate financial need. Students with less educational debt have the opportunity to explore all kinds of medical practice, so scholarships set them on the path to success without fear of future income potential.

Dr. Lauter's gift of gratitude for his education will make a remarkable and immediate impact in the lives of Wayne State University medical students. The School of Medicine is honored by his philanthropy and will be a proud steward of the scholarship that recognizes the life and legacy of his parents. To learn more about how to make a similar gift, contact Lori Robitaille at 313-993-4070 or lrobitai@med.wayne.edu.

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