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From the Past to the Present–Palmer Women Continue to Inspire

From the Past to the Present–Palmer Women Continue to Inspire

Winter 2016

cover story

From the First Lady of Chiropractic to the Leaders of Today—Palmer Women Continue to Inspire

The last chords of the organ echoed in the empty church as the young woman collected her music and stepped out into the spring sunshine. She shaded her eyes as she peered at the happy throng gathered around a table groaning with sandwiches, cakes, pies, cookies and an enormous cut-glass punch bowl. Then her gaze rested on a stranger—a young man with dark hair and piercing eyes. This church picnic was going to be interesting.

So might the first meeting of Mabel Sarah Heath and Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer have transpired at the turn of the 20th century. Mabel Heath became B.J. Palmer’s right hand and confidante, and earned the title First Lady of Chiropractic. She was born in Milan, Ill., in 1881 and attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Mabel met B.J. when she was an apprentice organist. They married in 1904. From the start she was interested in B.J. and his father’s profession and passion: chiropractic. She earned her doctor of chiropractic degree from D.D. and B.J. Palmer’s fledgling chiropractic school in 1905.

portrait of Dr. Mabel Heath Palmer

Mabel Heath Palmer, D.C., F.P.A.C., served as the Palmer School of Chiropractic’s treasurer and business manager, continuing in that role as the school prospered. Later she attended Rush Medical College in Chicago, Ill., where she studied anatomy, and returned to Palmer to take over teaching anatomy and dissection. She wrote the first anatomy textbook for chiropractic students and was an instructor at the Palmer School for more than 35 years.

A close and valued adviser to her husband, Dr. Mabel Palmer was a popular lecturer throughout the chiropractic profession and a beloved anatomy teacher. She was one of a number of early women graduates, many of whom practiced midwifery or another healing art, who were attracted by the idea of natural health care centered on the spine and nervous system. With her intelligence, prominence and quiet authority, she set the standard for women in chiropractic.

Palmer women follow in Mabel’s footsteps

Dr. Agnes Palmer
profile of Dr. Agnes Palmer

Agnes Mae High was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1938. She practiced in Chester County, Pa., before marrying David D. Palmer, D.C., F.P.A.C., in 1943. An accomplished sculptor, Agnes Palmer, D.C., F.P.A.C., left a legacy in chiropractic as well as the world. The busts of Dr. Dave and Dr. Mabel Palmer found on Heritage Wall on Palmer’s Davenport, Iowa, campus, were made by Dr. Agnes Palmer, and she was invited to display her sculpture in a one-woman show at the Davenport Art Gallery (now the Figge Art Museum). She served as the Supreme Kiatrus of Sigma Phi Chi, the women’s professional sorority founded by Dr. Mabel Palmer, from 1949 until her death in 1998.

Bonnie Palmer McCloskey
profile of Bonnie Palmer McCloskey

The three daughters of Drs. Dave and Agnes Palmer assumed the mantle of leadership as well. Bonnie Palmer McCloskey, M.B.A., like her sisters Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton, H.C.D. (Hon.), and Vickie Anne Palmer, H.C.D. (Hon.), F.P.A.C., grew up on the Palmer campus. She served on the College Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1984, and also served as vice president of the Palmer Broadcasting Company, the family’s communication business.

Ms. McCloskey is a partner in Cornerstone Holdings, LLC. She has extensive experience with civic groups, having served as director or trustee for 16 organizations, and currently is a trustee of Sweet Briar College. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College as well as an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton
profile of Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton

Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton, H.C.D. (Hon.), received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Briar Cliff College in Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y. She served on the Palmer College of Chiropractic Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1992. She was chairman of its Nominating Committee and was involved with the acquisition of Palmer West. She also served as vice president of the Palmer Broadcasting Company, the family’s communications business. She was granted an honorary Doctor of Chiropractic Humanities degree in 2016. Following in her father’s footsteps as a philanthropist and arts supporter, she’s been involved in numerous charitable endeavors.

Vickie Anne Palmer: A life dedicated to Palmer College

The youngest of Drs. Dave and Agnes Palmer’s daughters, Vickie Anne Palmer, H.C.D. (Hon.), F.P.A.C., has dedicated her life to serving Palmer College and the chiropractic profession.
profile of Vickie Anne Palmer

Known as The Refiner of Chiropractic, Vickie Anne Palmer has built on her family’s heritage by continuing to lead and refine the chiropractic mission they began. Like her sisters, Vickie Palmer grew up on the Palmer campus, serving in a variety of positions within the College.

She hasn’t stopped serving Palmer College since her childhood. She attended Palmer Junior College and Marycrest College before graduating from Sawyer Business College and attending management courses at Drake University and the University of Notre Dame. Vickie Palmer joined the Palmer College Board of Trustees in 1978 and was elected chairman in 1987, serving in that role until 2008. She currently serves the Board as secretary general, a member of the Executive Committee and co-chair of the Ad Hoc Identity Committee. She’s a distinguished Fellow in the Palmer Academy of Chiropractic, and in 1987 was granted an honorary Doctor of Chiropractic Humanities degree.

During her 21-year tenure as chairman of the Palmer College Board, Vickie Palmer was instrumental in developing the Palmer College of Chiropractic system that includes three campuses. She led the Palmer Board in facilitating the growth, development and stabilization of Palmer’s West campus in San Jose, Calif. She served as vice chairman of Palmer’s West Campus Board of Trustees, and when the Palmer Chiropractic University System was founded in 1991, she was named chairman of its Board. She also was chairman of the Board during the preparatory work and establishment of Palmer’s Florida campus in Port Orange, Fla., in 2002.

Additionally, she was engaged with major facilities improvements on the College’s Davenport campus, including upgrading the David D. Palmer Health Sciences Library, building the Palmer Academic Health Center (opened in 2007) and the establishment of the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research and the Palmer Center for Business Development.

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