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In Memoriam

Boca mourns genial Dr. Ira Gelb passing

Not everybody leaves behind a medical school. Dr. Ira Gelb did. Boca’s genial, high-profile teaching physician and philanthropist was still going strong at 92. He passed away Monday, just short of his 50th anniversary with his wife and constant companion June.

Florida Atlantic University president Dr. John Kelly gave the eulogy at Temple Beth El Wednesday. More than 200 people watched the private funeral on Zoom. The service started with “Taps” and a military flag-folding ceremony. After medical school, Gelb joined the Army as a regimental surgeon and served in Germany.

“He was called the founding father,” for inspiring FAU to open the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Kelly said. He spent two decades on the FAU faculty and mentored the new medical students. “Ira will live on through the hundreds of students he mentored who are practicing physicians now. He will always be with us,” Kelly said..

“His smile, as June said, arrived before he did,” said Rabbi Dan Levin, who officiated. He loved June, his children and grandchildren. But when his beeper went off, his patients were always his priority, Levin said. After he retired from practice and the Gelbs moved here, “Ira wove himself into the fabric of this community.”

The Gelbs lent their presence and support to the Boca nonprofit world for years. From a golf outing for PROPEL called Gelb Golf, to his honor at Connected Warriors’ gala last Veterans Day weekend. But he was most known for bringing the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s regional program here. That became the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University. He was still a professor.

“He taught school until the pandemic. He valued that time with his students. That’s what kept him going,” said Frank Feiler, a close friend for 35 years also active in the community. “His sense of humor. His compassion for other people. He brightened up any room he walked into. He inspired people.”

Memorial contributions can be made to the June and Ira J. Gelb, M.D. Endowed Scholarship Fund at https://fauf.fau.edu/giveagift or by mail: Attention David Green, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine, 777 Glades Road, BC-71, Boca Raton, FL 33431

Here’s a few remembrances:

  • “Ira was a visionary, an educational icon, an American hero, and one of FAU’s most steadfast friends. He made an indelible mark on this university. His legacy will live on through the many lives he touched as a physician, teacher and philanthropist,” FAU president Dr. John Kelly. [Full text at http://www.fau.edu/president/blog/blog-entry-091420gelb.php]
  • “He had a unique ability to bring out the very best among those around him — and we were all fortunate to be in his midst,” Dr. Phillip Boiselle, dean, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine
  • “He was an incredible person. So giving of his time. Ira Gelb’s gift was making everyone around him feel special, cherished,” Pamela Polani, attorney, Alzheimer activist and friend
  • “Dr. Gelb was an extraordinary friend, mentor and visionary, serving as an indelible driving force and steward for the Schmidt College of Medicine at FAU, the first and only medical school in Palm Beach County,” Bonnie and Jon Kaye, founders, White Coats-4-Care scholarship fundraisers for FAU medical school
  • “Ira was truly a giant amongst us, loved by all, because he walked the walk of the Four Way Test in everything he said and did. He made the Rotary Club Downtown Boca Raton matter and we are forever grateful,” David Eltringham, president, Rotary Club Downtown Boca

Here’s Gelb’s military bio from Connected Warriors: Gelb grew up in Flushing, N.Y. He graduated early from high school at 16 and entered the pre-med program at New York University At 19. At 23, he completed his medical degree at NYU. In 1953 he joined the Army and served as a regimental surgeon for the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in Gelnhausen, Germany. After the Army, Gelb finished his residency in Colorado before returning to New York as a part of the faculty and house staff at Mt. Sinai before moving to Florida.

By Marci Shatzman

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