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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Physical Therapy Program Founder John Echternach Dies

John "Jack" Echternach, founder of the Old Dominion University physical therapy program, died Thursday, July 11, at his mountain home near Roanoke, Va.

Echternach is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeanne, and several other family members including his daughter Catherine Lyn. A memorial service was held Sunday, July 14, at Boones Mill Christian Church, followed by inurnment in the church's columbarium.

Echternach, 81, was a professor and Eminent Scholar Emeritus at ODU, where he served on the faculty from 1978 to 2005. During his time at the university, he was chair of the School of Community Health and Physical Therapy. In 1991, he was awarded the Eminent Scholar designation in recognition of his distinction as a teacher-scholar and his many contributions to the university. Even after his retirement in 2005, Echternach remained significantly involved with the College of Health Sciences.

Shelley Mishoe, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said Echternach was a leader in physical therapy and allied health education. "We share in the school and profession's sadness on his death," she said.

A memorial service will be held during the School of Physical Therapy's annual alumni weekend, Sept. 21-22.

George Maihafer, associate professor and graduate program director of the School of Physical Therapy, said Echternach admitted ODU's first class of 24 students, and during his time on the faculty, physical therapy grew from a bachelor's degree to a master's program, eventually transitioning to the current doctoral program that accepts 45 students annually.

"Not only was Jack respected by over 400 physical therapists who graduated from this program (since its inception), he was chairman of the School of Community Health and Physical Therapy in the College of Health Sciences and, as an active faculty member in the Ph.D. in health services research degree, was responsible for many doctoral candidates' research," Maihafer said. "Jack will be dearly missed by the Old Dominion University physical therapy community with many of us owing our careers to his guidance and dedication to excellence."

Nationally, Echternach received numerous awards and recognitions from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), including the Lucy Blair Service Award, the Golden Pen Research award and induction as a Catherine Worthington Fellow of the APTA. Earlier this year, Echternach received the first Lifetime Achievement award from the Virginia Physical Therapy Association.

In addition to his work at ODU, Echternach was an adjunct professor in the Nova Southeastern University physical therapy Ph.D. program.

Prior to joining the ODU faculty, Echternach retired, with the rank of captain, from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). During a 24-year career with that agency, he served as a staff therapist, chief of a hospital department and officer in charge of Physical and Occupational Therapy Activities in the Division of Hospitals and Clinics of the USPHS.

Echternach held a bachelor's degree in health and physical education from West Chester University, a Certificate of Physical Therapy from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's in anatomy from the University of Maryland and a Doctor of Education in higher education/administration degree from the College of William & Mary.