The Strauss Health Sciences Library at CU Anschutz is named in honor of Henry Strauss, a 1951 CU pharmacy school graduate settling into his tenth decade.
Strauss, who worked briefly as a pharmacist and distinguished himself in real estate development and politics, is not a physician. He’s never dissected a body or performed a bypass.
Why does his name grace the sprawling library erected at the CU Anschutz medical campus, primarily utilized (pre-COVID-19) by 1,000 med students daily?
Strauss’ backstory explains the origins of his overriding passion — non-Western, alternative medicine — and the medical community’s respect.
Between 1975 and 1990, Strauss visited China 26 times to promote Colorado-Hunan relations. When he wasn’t negotiating at a conference table, he visited bookstalls and purchased works on Chinese medicine.
“My understanding is that Henry was interested in exploring multiple treatments for his first wife Florence, who was in the hospital,” says Melissa De Santis, director of the library since 2016.
In 1995, Strauss discussed his diminutive collection of books — about 25 in all — on Chinese medicine and remedies with friends at the library.
“He talked about how nice it would be if this information were more readily available to doctors and students so they could see there are other ways to do things,” she says.
The library agreed.
Strauss endowed the Florence G. Strauss (later Strauss-Wisneski) Indigenous and Integrated Medicine Collection at CU’s medical library.
For starters, it showcases a 1949 book on traditional Indian medicine translated in Sanskrit and English; the memoir of a female medicine healer from the Crow Nation; and a 1930 scholarly study on developments in mushroom biology.
The alternative medicine collection — which now spans the globe — is the most popular exhibit at the health sciences library, which is 99% electronic. The Strauss corpus represents the 1% exception.
“Most of these works are in print form because they were donated to the collection in the 1990s and also purchased in countries without access to technology,” De Santis says. “But that’s changing.”
Strauss and his wife Joan were honored at the Strauss Health Sciences Library’s rededication ceremony in 2019. Gov. Jared Polis paid tribute to the couple at CU’s 2020 benefactor recognition dinner.
Henry Strauss was born in Hamburg, Germany. He escaped Hitler with his family in 1933 and lived in Spain and Denmark before coming to the US in 1939. The family settled in Denver.
Strauss attended Denver Public Schools and served in the US Army until 1947. The GI bill enabled him to matriculate CU’s Skaggs College of Pharmacy in CU Boulder.
He was the first person in his family to attend college.
After Florence Strauss’ passing, Strauss married Joan Strauss, a collector and benefactor in her own right.
Strauss made his first donation to CU’s library in 1987 to establish a scholarly framework for non-Western medical alternatives and remedies. He has also volunteered in leadership positions at the library, for the Alumni Assn., and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy.
De Santis says, “I adore Henry’s wit and sense of humor. He’s very humble, kind, and honestly wants to make the world a better place.
“Henry’s always working,” she says. “My personal takeaway is that’s why he’s had such a long life, because he is constantly learning. He’s keeping his mind active.”
Colorado University’s first medical library, the Buckingham Library, sprang up on the Boulder campus in 1912. By 1924, the college had expanded its capacity.
The medical library transferred to 9th and Colorado in Denver, where a new campus gained prominence.
Following expansions and renovations accommodating a surge in student population in 1962 and 1976, the campus initiated plans to move to Fitzsimons Army base, which closed in Aurora, in 1996.
The 118,000 sq. ft. Health Sciences Library at CU Anschutz Medical Campus opened in November, 2007.
De Santis says, “People are frustrated by health care in general in the US and are looking for other options,” De Santis says. “They often visit their doctors and ask about medical practices defined as complementary or alternative.”
She says that physicians, nurses and all health professionals need to possess reliable knowledge regarding these treatments, many of which have proven beneficial, to provide the best patient care.
That information is in the Strauss-Wisneski collection at CU health sciences library.
The continual drive to explore “is one of the reasons I’m pleased our library is named after Henry,” De Santis says. “He is someone who embodies continuous learning and growth.”
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