From the Archives, February 14, 2021

Namesakes: Rudolph Light

As this year is Boxwell’s Centennial, we thought it might be worth exploring the backgrounds on some of the people you’ve heard of but probably know very little about. The Reservation is dotted with names of people who were once significant to the Middle Tennessee movement, but are basically forgotten today. So, to kick off, we thought we’d start with… Dr. Rudolph Light of Camp Light fame.

Rudolph Alvin Light was a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1910. He attended a military academy in his youth before attending the University of Southern California, where he studied physics and chemistry. Light spent most of the 1930s in college and graduate school, earning degrees from Yale and Oxford. His final degree was a doctor of Medicine in 1939 from Vanderbilt University, which brought the twenty-nine year old to Nashville. He performed two years of internship at the University hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

Light returned to Nashville after his internship to serve on the surgical staff at Vanderbilt. His employment was interrupted in 1943 when joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps to serve in the Second World War. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his work during this years. In 1946, he retunred to become director of rehabilitation services and director at surgical research at Vanderbilt Hospital. It was during these years he was critical in establishing the S. Rudolph Light Laboratory of Surgical Research for Vanderbilt, financed and named for his father. In 1958, he accepted a position as a visiting surgeon at Oxford until 1962. His professional associations included New York Academy of Science, the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the Southern Surgical Association.

With both his family and his work at Vanderbilt involved in pharmaceuticals, an exploding field after World War II, Light also became a philanthropist. Light was a president of the Nashville Symphony Association and the Nashville Civic Music Association. He was involved in the Nashville Educational Television Foundation, which established WDCN-TV, the forerunner to WNPT Nashville’s Public Television station. He was also director of the Middle Tennessee Heart Association and Tennessee Heart Association. Light was also deeply involved in the Nashville Children’s Museum.

Light became involved with the Boy Scouts of Middle Tennessee when Lem Stevens becames President after Leslie G. Boxwell’s retirement. He joined the Executive Board and helped moved Boxwell from the Narrows to Rock Island. He served as chairman of the Health and Safety Committee and even served as chairman on the Camping Committee during the early 1950s. As his service continued, Light recognized the shortcomings of the Rock Island location and help champion the move to the Old Hickory location. Light himself gave $75,000 to the campaign and served on the Planning Committee that developed the plans for the reservations physical layout and facilities.

Light died January 12, 1970. His family asked the contributions be made to the Middle Tennessee Council. Light had four children (one natural, one adopted, two stepchildren), and six grandsons at the time of his death.

Rudolph Light from _The Tennessean_ January 13, 1970, pg. 1

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