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To the World and Back Again

A native son whose bequest intention will benefit U-M returns to campus after more than 50 years

Stuart and Barbara Bloom

Stuart Bloom (BS '62) of Los Angeles couldn't make it to campus for his milestone 50th reunion in 2012, so this past fall, when he and his wife, Barbara Bloom, were planning a grand tour of North America—in their twin-engine six-seat propeller plane (built circa 1970), with Bloom piloting—Ann Arbor was on the itinerary. The couple's touchdown in Michigan brought Bloom to the Diag for the first time in more than 50 years—and Barbara, for the first time ever. "Stuart has very, very fond memories of Michigan," she said.

In gratitude for Bloom's U-M education—and with hopes of helping future students be able to have a similar opportunity—the Blooms in 2011 created an estate plan designating a significant bequest intention for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, where Bloom earned his undergraduate degree.

U-M was on Bloom's radar from the beginning. Born in Detroit, he grew up knowing from family members—including his father, the late Leslie D. Bloom (LLB '31), and his uncle, the late Herbert J. Bloom (DDS '35, MS '37, MS '42): "You're born; you go to high school; you go to Michigan; and then you find a job," Bloom said. Cousins Stephen R. Bloom (BBA '60, MBA '61) and Michael D. Bloom (DDS '65) attended Michigan, too.

A proud graduate of Mumford High School in Detroit—where "85 percent of our class of 550 went on to college," Bloom said—he took a test soon after enrolling at Michigan that was designed to help determine a suitable career. "No. 1 was physics," Bloom recalls. "No. 2 was medicine."

Originally accepted to U-M's music school as a violin major, Bloom would choose medicine as his career, but music and physics remained lifelong interests. He played violin through college, also serving for three college summers, 1959–61, on the staff of the national summer music camp at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Traverse City, Michigan, where he coached students in violin practice. To this day, he reads widely on physics.

During their daylong visit to campus this past October, the Blooms spent time with Danielle Belen, associate professor of music for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, whom they met when she was first violinist of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles. They also enjoyed time with Physics Professor James Liu and Physics Department Chair Bradford Orr, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics. "They are incredible experts in areas of physics that absolutely fascinate me—cosmology, high-energy particles, quantum mechanics, gravity," Bloom said.

Stuart and Barbara Bloom with Professor Orr

Stuart and Barbara Bloom with Professor Orr

Being on campus brought back memories. As a U-M freshman, Bloom lived in West Quad's Williams House, with Mrs. Mallett as house mother. In college he served as program director of the campus broadcasting network WCBN and as concertmaster for the U-M Gilbert and Sullivan Society, where he recalls performing in productions of "Patience," "The Yeomen of the Guard," and "The Pirates of Penzance."

"That was before Vietnam," Bloom recalls, "so it was a lighter atmosphere. The undergraduate library had just been completed, and celebrating one's 21st birthday at the P-Bell was a time-honored tradition."

Bloom's education in LSA was "a potpourri of different kinds of exposures," he said. "I think if you have a really narrow curriculum, you get a narrow view of what the world is like." After graduation, Bloom studied osteopathic medicine for four years in Chicago before returning to Detroit for a medical internship. Then he "got a notice from Uncle Sam saying, 'We'd like to offer you a commission in the medical corps. If you don't take it, we'll make you an infantry soldier in the army.'" It was 1967, and the draft was on.

Bloom served two years in the Army medical corps, including a year at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in Korea. Then he returned to Detroit for more anesthesia training, followed by 11 years in private practice in Southfield, Michigan. In January 1984, Bloom made the move to Los Angeles, where for about two decades he delivered anesthesia in the trauma center of the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, California. About 10 years ago, Bloom shifted into part-time outpatient anesthesia work.

Nowadays he and Barbara, who is chief operations officer of the Santa Monica, California–based mental health center, Step Up on Second, enjoy traveling when they can—whether that be a weekend trip on their plane to the wine country in northern California or a more complicated journey like the one they took in the fall. After passing through Michigan, the journey included stops in Rhode Island and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, followed by Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Oklahoma City en route back to L.A. "We plotted our course specifically to visit friends and family and see the campus," Barbara said.

The campus visit knitted together Bloom's lifelong interests of music and physics. "Professor Liu teaches the physics of acoustics and musical instruments," he said, "and he's a musician, so we found ourselves on all these wonderful tangents, including why Stradivarius violins sound so wonderful," Bloom said, adding that all in all, his time on campus—both in 1958–62 and in 2014—was "a wonderful experience."

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