Updated: Nov 19
The Gillenwater Story by Eduardo Montes-Bradley
This morning, I awoke intending to visit Dr. Jay Y. Gillenwater—my old friend, neighbor, and true gentleman—before noon. Several years ago, the University of Virginia entrusted me with crafting The Gillenwater Story, a biographical tribute to him. Much like the closing scenes of Casablanca, what began as a project evolved into the start of a beautiful friendship.
Through countless morning walks and shared moments, I've gleaned valuable insights from my neighbor, for which I am sincerely grateful. Now, the film stands as a reflection in my rearview mirror, a cherished memory that reminds me to stay true to myself.
Movie of the Week
The Gillenwater Story
Jay Y. Gillenwater is a globally respected academic and physician—and a woodland gardener with an old-school belief in family, friendship, and self-sufficiency. This portrait of a plain-spoken scientist who married his childhood sweetheart brings out the wisdom of an unassuming Southerner and the moral compass of an exemplary man.
Born in an East Tennessee industrial town during the Great Depression, Jay Gillenwater has witnessed fundamental transformations in society, science, and academia, from his grandparents’ Depression-Era financial collapse to his father’s role in the creation of the Oak Ridge atomic bomb facility to his principled support for the first women physicians to enter his specialty.
“The Gillenwater Story” springs from the testimony of its protagonist, his family and friends, and hundreds of historical photographs and documents. But it goes beyond this one story to demonstrate how biography is a distinctive tool for understanding and representing the social history of our time.