Steven Sears Spencer

Spencer—Steven Sears Spencer, 85, on July 11, 2015, in Santa Fe, N.M. Steve was born on August 27, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Mary and Steven Spencer. He graduated from Swarthmore College, where he met his wife, Joan, and went on to earn an MD from University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Awarded a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, he believed that the greatest value in life came from helping others, and he dedicated his life to trying to make a difference through service. In the 1950s he served on the Navajo reservation as senior assistant surgeon and chief of outpatient services for the U.S. Public Health Service. He enthusiastically seized an opportunity in 1960 to work with a man he greatly admired, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, at the Lambarene Hospital in Gabon, an experience that inspired and influenced him for the rest of his life.

Steve established a coronary care unit in the Community Hospital in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he had a private practice. As a faculty member of University of Arizona Medical School, he founded the Commitment to Underserved People Program, a special educational and enrichment program for medical students. He served in Sage Memorial Hospital, as medical director at the Navajo Nation Health Foundation, as associate professor in the University of Dar es Salaam department of medicine in Tanzania, and on the board of Saint Elizabeth’s Shelter in Santa Fe. Publishing many articles and receiving fellowships, grants, and honors, in 1985 he became medical director of the New Mexico Corrections Department, and when he retired, continued as an independent consultant in correctional health care.

A member of Santa Fe Meeting for many years, he served on committees and participated in larger gatherings of Friends. He and Joan hosted traveling Friends and opened their home for many Quaker events. He and Joan were founding members of the N.M. Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, which was instrumental in New Mexico’s ultimate death penalty repeal.

He loved skiing, camping, spending time with family, and world travel. He was an avid fly fisherman and a member of the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata and other singing groups. At the memorial service giving thanks for his life at the United Church of Santa Fe, the church choir and the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata led the hymns that had special meaning for Steve and that he enjoyed singing. His mantra was printed on his memorial flyer: Simplify and beautify. Carefully create. Love, honor, and help others. Each day, celebrate.

Steve is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joan Spencer; four daughters; seven grandchildren; and two brothers, Douglas Spencer and David Spencer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.