April 21, 2016
Whether you personally knew Charles M. Magistro, PT, DPT (hon), DrSci (hon), FAPTA, or not, if you are a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, or student of physical therapy, I can assure you that you have been touched by his presence. Charles, who quietly passed away on April 21 at age 91, was a truly historical figure in physical therapy. Every physical therapist and physical therapist assistant practicing today is part of a profession that was shaped by his vision, his heart, and his unwavering commitment to always doing the very best for his patients and his community. The physical therapy profession has lost a legend.
The contributions Charles made to our field, and his achievements as a leader of APTA, are beyond count. In addition to his involvement with APTA as president, treasurer, and member of the nominating and finance committees, Charles participated in multiple highly influential work groups and task forces that guided our association's efforts to support research and develop long-range plans. Charles oversaw the first professionally managed APTA Combined Sections Meeting, in 1976, and led the association through a time of dramatic growth. He was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow in 1990, and received both the Lucy Blair Service Award and the Henry O. Kendall and Florence P. Kendall Award. His memorable Mary McMillan lecture in 1987 urged us to be always ready to take on challenges to our profession, but never forget the core values that give physical therapy its power and worth.
Those are just a few of his honors and contributions-and just those associated with APTA. Charles Magistro's work covered a much larger range than simply our association. As an author, an inspiring speaker, an advocate for the profession, and a champion of evidence-based practice, Charles was often at the center of some of the most historic transformations in the physical therapy profession. He was a critical force behind the establishment of a physical therapy education accrediting program that stood on its own rather than under the AMA; and he is credited with shepherding a struggling PT Fund into becoming the Foundation for Physical Therapy, now the country's leading supporter of research around our profession. Today, the Charles Magistro legacy lives on in the Foundation through, among other things, the Magistro Family Foundation Research Grant program.
Even more important, Charles Magistro was passionate about caring for his patients, and was a physical therapist who truly lived out his profession's dedication to making a difference in communities. The Magistro Family Foundation's support of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in California made it possible for the hospital to reopen its community and patient library in 2011. Just last year, the Medical Center renamed its rehabilitation center the Charles M. Magistro Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Center in honor of the tireless work he did on behalf of physical therapy.
And above all else, Charles was a loving husband to his wife Noel and a dedicated father to 4 daughters and a son. There are no official awards or recognitions for that, but I believe Charles would consider his family the greatest achievement of his lifetime.
As APTA approaches its centennial, I am reminded that, over the years, we have had a wonderful opportunity to be able to meet and talk with some of the profession's true pioneers, though sadly, their numbers are dwindling. Charles Magistro was one of those pioneers, and I feel blessed to have known him. He always had good advice to offer ("Keep your powder dry, little girl"), and every conversation was sincere, with those steely blue eyes dancing with purpose, wisdom, and joy. I will miss him, as I'm sure we all will.
We mourn the passing of Charles Magistro, but we also celebrate a life well lived, and honor someone who gave selflessly, who absolutely wanted the best for our profession and APTA. It will be impossible to forget Charles Magistro, because his soul is woven into who we are as a profession.
APTA President Sharon L. Dunn, PT, PhD, OCS