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Faces of Giving

Ensuring Emory Physical Therapy's future
Story Photo

An archival photo of Norma Fraser Devine, 82MMwSc, with John Henry, former CEO of Emory Hospitals.  

It’s a good thing that Norma Fraser Devine likes a challenge. When she began working at Emory University Hospital Midtown (then Crawford Long) in 1971, she was the hospital’s first and only physical therapist. By then, she had already earned an undergraduate degree in physical therapy in her native England and had spent four years practicing and teaching physical therapy in Turkey. These days, Norma Fraser is a major benefactor to the Emory Physical Therapy scholarship program.

Why become a physical therapist?

Girls were usually teachers or nurses or secretaries, and I didn’t want to be any of those. I was my high school swimming champion and played first-string on my tennis team. I knew that physical therapy dealt with movement. I’m not sure I really knew what I was getting into.

Can you describe your early days at Emory Midtown, then Crawford Long Hospital?

I started in 1971 and left in 1988 as the chief physical therapist of the hospital. I was the only PT when I first got there. They put me in an office right under the roof. It was two little rooms. I’d watch for tornadoes when there was a tornado warning. I could see them coming. After the first year I was allowed to employ another physical therapist and an aide—so it increased our office threefold. But it took time for the doctors to recognize that physical therapists dealt not with just orthopaedics, but cardiology, neurology, pulmonary conditions, amputations, and many other aspects of a person’s health.

After working full-time 
at Emory Midtown for almost 10 years, you came to Emory to get a master’s degree in physical therapy. It was the early 1980s, and you were already a respected physical therapist. What propelled you back to school?

My husband had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I knew I would have to be the main provider for my family. Also, my physical therapy department was growing quickly, and I needed some extra skills. If I was going to keep taking students at Emory Midtown, I had to be up with the latest in what was going on. And I’ve always been 
a lifelong student. So I worked full-time and went to school.

You donate generously to Emory’s Physical Therapy scholarship program. Why?

When I worked in Turkey I saw 
so many people who wanted to become physical therapists and 
just couldn’t afford it. Physical therapy is such a wonderful line 
of work and I want as many people who aspire to go to be able 
to enter the profession.


New Support for DPT/PhD Students

Renowned professor Steve Wolf 72MS 73PhD is anything but anonymous in the world of physical therapy, but when he decided to start an endowment at Emory, he was hoping to stay under the radar. “I tend to be very shy about these matters,” Wolf says. “I don’t like to talk about these things. I don’t need the accolades.” Now in his 41st year on faculty at Emory, Wolf, PhD, PT, FAPTA, FAHA, would rather discuss physical therapy than his own philanthropy.

Still, after some arm-twisting by division chair Zoher Kapasi, Wolf has come forward as the philanthropist behind a new endowment. The Steven L. Wolf Scholars Fund will fund Emory students who’ve completed their doctorate in physical therapy and are beginning their PhD in Applied Physiology through the joint Emory-Georgia Tech program.

For Wolf, creating the endowment was a no-brainer. He had too often worked with students whose future ambitions were being hijacked by student loans. “I just want to provide opportunities for people to pursue their inquiry interests with as little debt as possible,” explains Wolf. “If we can encourage students to go beyond the DPT and learn more so they can contribute to our knowledge base, then why not? Quite frankly, I have a vested interest in helping to create the next generation of research scholars in physical therapy.”

And while Wolf does plan to decrease his workload next year, he isn’t ready to completely hand over the baton altogether. He continues to be excited about research, including a new Veterans Affairs grant to explore robot-led interventions for veterans in remote locations. “As long as I can do those kinds of things and no one seems 
to stop me, I’ll continue to do some work,” says Wolf.

Wolf says he doesn’t love the attention he’s receiving because of the endowment, but he does hope the spotlight will lead others to add to the endowment. “If friends and family or colleagues are wishing to do something for me—whether for anniversaries or birthdays or whatever—I hope they give a tax-free donation to the scholarship program,” he says. “If people want to be thankful or appreciative to me, they can contribute something. I’d rather that than talk about it.”

tovanIan Tovin (L) with son Brian Tovin 92MMSc 02DPT at the younger Tovin’s wedding.

A Gift in Memoriam

Brian Tovin 92MMSc 02DPT had a nagging feeling that he could be doing more. He’d made a name for himself treating professional athletes and as the head athletic trainer for the men’s aquatics program during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Last year marked the 20th year of business for his network of clinics, The Sports Rehab Center. He remembered his time at Emory fondly and happily hosted Emory students for clinical rotations. Sometimes he mentored them; sometimes he hired them after graduation.

But Tovin kept thinking about his father, Ian Tovin, who passed away a decade ago. “He was a really giving person,” says Tovin. “He always put others before himself.” The elder Tovin had owned a dry cleaning business and was known for his friendliness, generosity, and curiosity. When Ian Tovin wanted to perfect a tennis swing, he’d read a book on the topic. When he wanted to help his three athletic, active sons find the right career paths, he’d done research that eventually led all three sons straight to physical therapy.

“He did more research than our guidance counselors did,” says Brian Tovin. “This was in the early 80s, and he had the foresight to know that physical therapy was going to become a leading profession.”

Now Brian Tovin is honoring his father’s memory by establishing the Ian H. Tovin Award at Emory’s Division of Physical Therapy. The endowment will support future Emory DPT students, relieving part of the cost of tuition.

For Brian Tovin, his philanthropy is a way of ensuring a strong future for the profession he loves. “My parents raised me on the concept of 
giving back,” says Tovin. “And there are great minds that contribute to 
our profession who might be handcuffed in making ends meet. I’m hoping this endowment will grow enough and lead more of these individuals to come to Emory. ”

Tovin also hopes the endowment leads to more alumni gifts to the DPT program. “Even though this fund has my father’s name on it, this is bigger than me or my dad,” he says. “I hope that my gift inspires others to contribute to the endowment at whatever level they can. It is about giving back to a program that gave so much to us. Any little bit counts.”

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