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The Schroeders and Molthens: Two families with an innate interest in chiropractic

Chiropractic has always been a family affair. The father of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer, was also the father of future chiropractor Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer, who married chiropractor Mabel Heath. B.J. and Mabel’s son David, also became a chiropractor, before marrying chiropractor Agnes High. Vickie Palmer, a daughter of David and Agnes, continues her family’s tradition of promoting chiropractic while honoring the Palmer legacy.
Today, Palmer College is a place a number of families call home. Recently we spoke to members of the Schroeder, Molthen, Judge and Meylor families to find out why their families— and the many others they represent—have made Palmer College a part of their own legacies.
D.D. Palmer and Family

In an account he wrote on how chiropractic has played a big role in the histories of the Shroeder and Molthen families, Dr. Alfred Schroeder, Davenport ’48, recalls how one side of his family, the Molthens, began its long association with Palmer College.

In the early 1900s, John Molthen took the advice of a friend and enrolled in the Palmer School of Chiropractic. He also persuaded his three brothers, Frank, Luke and William, to join him. All four graduated from Palmer in 1921.

That early commitment to Palmer has culminated in 45 members of both families earning their degrees on the College’s Davenport and West campuses. When graduates of other chiropractic colleges are added, the number of chiropractors in the family grows to more than 60.

On the Schroeder side of the family, Alfred’s father, Frederick, gained an interest in becoming a chiropractor while a dock worker in New York City. One day at lunch, a coworker who’d served prison time told him a story.

He said, ‘You you learn who belongs in prison, and one man did not belong in jail. He called himself a chiropractor and was trying to help sick people with this new profession.’ Frederick Schroeder took this to heart, earning his chiropractic degree at nearby Columbia Institute of Chiropractic. Dr. Frederick Schroeder then practiced in New York—an unlicensed state—for 33 years. He would be just one of a number of pioneers in a family that has graduated four generations of chiropractors.

In the 1930s, Frank Molthen, D.C., opened the first chiropractic practice in Hong Kong. One of his patients was none other than Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Republic of China. Then, while serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, he became a prisoner of war for four years. During his time in a Japanese concentration camp, he gave adjustments “to prisoners and guards alike.”

Frank’s daughter, Rita Molthen Schroeder, Davenport ’49, made history in her own right in 1980 by becoming the first female president of a chiropractic college, Pacific States Chiropractic College—today’s Life Chiropractic College West. And it was her marriage to Richard Schroeder, D.C., Davenport ’48, that joined the Schroeder and Molthen families together. When she passed away in 2005, she was survived by six children, all graduates of Palmer’s Davenport Campus.

One of Rita’s nephews is a true leader, too. Terry Schroeder, D.C., West ’86, is a four-time Olympian who led his U.S. Water Polo team to win silver medals in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Games, and fourth place in the 1992 Summer Games. Currently he’s the assistant coach for the team that will compete in the 2008 Games in Beijing. When he’s not running his practice, he coaches the water polo team at Pepperdine University, in Malibu, Calif.

Dr. Terry Schroeder, holding a water polo ball, stands in front of other Schroeder family chiropractors in a 1988 Sports Illustrated photo.
Dr. Terry Schroeder and family with spine costume

For Terry and siblings Lance and Tammy—all 1986 West Campus graduates—an interest in chiropractic has always been close to home. Their father, Robert Schroeder, D.C., Davenport ’51, provided care in their house in the early years of his practice.

“We watched patients who could oftentimes barely walk into the treatment room walk out smiling and laughing with my father,” Terry said. “We believed that what Dad did was very special and as we learned more about it, it became something that we felt we wanted to do also.”

The same feeling is shared by Terry’s cousin, Carol Schroeder Hamby, D.C., Davenport ’85, whose father practiced chiropractic with Terry’s father for 30 years. For her, being a chiropractor was a natural choice. “It was just the thing we did,” she said. “No one pushed you to be one. It was a way of life in our family.”

As for how it feels to be part of the fourth generation of a chiropractic family, Carol doesn’t hold back. “It makes you proud,” she said. “I brag to all of my patients about it. It’s fun.”

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