After graduating from Brother Rice High School, Stephen Mitros ‘68 attended the University of Notre Dame, and two years later, met a beautiful young woman named Janet on a Sunday afternoon at the Hesburgh Library. She was putting herself through Indiana University South Bend (IUSB), working as the principal’s secretary at a new Catholic high school in Mishawaka, the neighboring town to South Bend’s east, called, ironically, Marian High School. In 1973, Stephen and Janet got married, and after his first year in medical school at the University of Michigan, they would continue to live in Ann Arbor for the next eight years while Stephen completed his Medical Doctorate and residency training in orthopaedic surgery. During his time in Ann Arbor, his first two children were born, Chip (43) and Dory (38). Four years later, their youngest, Kellye (34), was born in Mishawaka, IN after Stephen had started his practice in South Bend, IN.
Mitros has been in solo practice specializing in hip and knee replacement for nearly the entirety of his career. Their oldest son Chip, received his Registered Nursing degree from IUSB and now works in medical sales. Their first daughter, Dory, is a lawyer who works in the office of a federal judge, and is on the faculty of Notre Dame’s law school. Their youngest (Kellye) graduated from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame and has become a valuable employee at Stephen’s orthopaedic clinic. Janet has always run the business side of Stephen’s practice, but went back to school in mid-life to earn her Registered Nursing degree from St. Mary’s to help participate in patient care. Stephen and Janet feel incredibly blessed to have their children and grandchildren (6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter) living just minutes from one another. The Mitros family currently resides in Granger, IN.
When Stephen came back to Bloomfield Hills for his 50th class reunion last month, he filled us in on his father’s role with the school in the mid-1960’s and mid-1970’s. Back then, Dr. Paul Mitros served as the team’s physician for the Athletic Department. To this day, the Brother Rice training room has always been called the “Mitros Clinic.” The following interview catches up with Dr. Stephen Mitros ‘68, Paul’s oldest son, and explains exactly how the clinic came about.
What is your favorite Brother Rice memory?
I have so many memories of my time at Brother Rice that it’s truly difficult to pick a “favorite.” If I had to pick one that brings a smile to my face, it would be Br. Greytak collecting green stamps. He taught junior year history (and I honestly quote him and give him credit for “ALL things in moderation, boys”), but I can look back and recognize the con he pulled on us all year. He convinced us that the degree of difficulty of his exams could be influenced by the number of green stamps that would mysteriosly appear on his desk the day before an exam. We would ask him if this or that would be covered on an exam and he would always say that there would need to be “a favorable alignment of constellations,” and the stars would slowly align one-by-one as students would trickle up to his desk and deposit green stamps. Still, he never lightened up on the exams!
Who is the last Brother Rice alumnus you spoke to? When and where?
Besides the guys I saw at our 50th class reunion last month, the last Rice alum I spoke to was Paul Zeleznik ‘68 about 15 years ago when he and his family came through South Bend on a college tour. Since then, we maintain occasional email contact and he let me know that Dave Fiebig ‘68 had emailed him trying to get him to come to our class reunion.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest acomplishment is having raised three children who remain attached enough to their parents that they felt they didn’t need to put significant distance between us and their families. Since Janet really did all the heavy lifting (I was the stereotypical absentee father as a surgeon-in-training), you could legitimately argue that she was the one who had the bigger hand in keeping the family close. I’m proud of a lot of professional accomplishments on my CV, but none are as important to me as still feeling the genuine affection of my family.
What advice would you give to a current student at Brother Rice?
I would tell a young man at Brother Rice today, “don’t sell this opportunity short.” Brother Rice is an incredible faith-based community focused on one thing: you. We come into Rice as youngsters, physically and emotionally immature, and we become the projects of teachers and coaches who give us four years of their lives, dedicated to developing us into young adults, getting us ready to go out, more or less, on our own to begin making responsible decisions and developing our own uniqueness. Our teachers through grade school and high school had special callings, but at Brother Rice you mature just enough to appreciate that deep commitment on the part of those who worked with you while you were there. I think it becomes apparent as you’re handed your diploma and you begin to search for purpose in your own life. Rice challenged me enough to gain admission into a prestigious university, and the school offers all its students that same opportunity today. None of us deserved to be at Brother Rice, but circumstances gave us the good fortune, so take advantage of what’s there for you. Do not take anything at Rice for granted.
Please share some background information on your father, Dr. Paul Mitros.
My dad was an all-state guard on a state champion high school basketball team: Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, NJ. After the military, he went to college on the GI Bill and played college ball at Johns Hopkins, graduating in 1953. I was my parent’s first, born while they were living in Baltimore. After medical school in Chicago (where my brother Mark, also a Rice grad, was born), we moved to Detroit when he began his OB/GYN residency at old Detroit Osteopathic Hospital in Highland Park. Loving sports (he played fast-pitch softball for the hospital team in the city league for years), the Detroit Red Wings team physicians at the time (Drs. John Finley and Milt Cosley) asked if any of the residents could help cover some Wings’ games at old Olympia, so my dad quickly jumped at the opportunity, with hockey being a niche sport in the late ’50s and one of the original six. Over the years he introduced me to Gordie Howe, Bill Gadsby, Alex Delvecchio, and instilled in me a love for hockey.
When was your father the team physician at Brother Rice and what were his roles and responsibilities?
When I started at Rice in the fall of ’64, everything was new. My Dad was gregarious and made friends among the faculty, especially among the coaches: first Joe Pascuzzi and then Al Fracassa, Brother Duffy, and especially Coach Bill Norton and his wife Vivian, maybe a shared love of basketball? Seeing no one on the football sidelines to take care of the players’ health, he started volunteering on the sidelines, and I remember him once telling me that if you wanted to have credibility with the players, you couldn’t just show up on game night in front of the crowds, you had to go to a practice or two during the week so the kids would feel you were one of THEM. He was accepted so completely by Rice’s coaching staff that when the faculty played the occasional exhibition basketball game against the varsity, he would be on the faculty team. My dad and Bill Norton became fast friends, and my dad actually delivered the two Norton children. At our 50th reunion, Coach Norton asked me to give his best to Mark and Paulette, my younger brother and sister. I can’t believe he remembered their names after all these years! So my dad became a fixture at the school, more on the east end of the building than the west, and despite all the time and attention he lavished on Rice, he had time to spectacularly grow his own CV: he helped start the new medical school in East Lansing, he became president of the Michigan Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, and at the time of his death was president of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Not bad for a sports doc!
When was the “Mitros Clinic” at Brother Rice founded and how was it established?
My dad suddenly became very ill in the early fall of 1974, the diagnosis was cancer, and the prognosis was grim. He was 47. A mass was said for him at St. Regis, and the football team gave him a signed ball (it remains on a shelf in my study today). My mom gave it to me after he died on March 12, 1975, and we buried him on my birthday, March 17. I was married and in medical school at the time, and Janet was pregnant with our first child, a son. Sometime not too long after that, I heard that Brother Rice had named the training room after him and had placed a plaque on the wall. My brother graduated in 1974, he was an all-state center for Coach Fracassa, and when I sent him the photo of the plaque on the training room door, he responded that he didn’t know about it. I’m so happy that I photographed it and could send him the picture, but it’s impossible to tell you the emotion I felt as I looked at it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to fill in the blanks on that mysterious plaque. Thank you for it still being there. I thought this history/biographical stuff would be easy, but I cried a bit tonight. This answer reminded me what a responsibility fatherhood is, and how my dad did it so well.
Did your father’s work as the team physician at Brother Rice influence your chosen career path as an Orthopaedic Surgeon?
As I look back at experiences which were once so much the fabric of my life, and which regrettably, but understandably, have slipped into the long ago (like my Dad at Olympia), I can see and feel his hand in my life: Do you know that I was the physician on record at the very first event at Joe Louis Arena? A University of Michigan vs U of D Mercy basketball game where workmen were still in the rafters applying the finishing touches. I was just an ortho resident at U of M, rotating on Sports Medicine under the late Dr. Gerry O’Connor, and he asked me if I would cover the game for him that night.
Taking my dad’s example to heart, I’ve been volunteering on Marian’s (MHS) football sidelines for 38 seasons, and I’ve been treated to the joy of taking care of Marian players whose fathers I took care of when they played at MHS years ago! My dad instilled a love of sports in me (although as Coach Norton would attest, none of his talent), so when South Bend was awarded a minor league baseball franchise in 1988, I went after the job and was lucky enough to land the position of lead team physician. I probably spent more time with my kids at the ballpark than I would have spent with them had we all been at home doing our own thing. As a result of that extracurricular activity, the family has developed a tremendous number of friendships throughout the game, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given two World Series rings (2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and 2016 Chicago Cubs).