The McCuskey Challenge


The McCuskey Challenge was a major success since the start of the campaign in January 2013. In just over 10 months, the Challenge encouraged 77 alumni, friends, and parents to increase their giving to the School of Medicine Annual Fund.  This group of donors, none of whom had ever given more than $500 to the Medicine Annual Fund in any of the last ten years, has contributed $100,550 since the beginning of 2013.  There were 64 alumni and 13 parents who increased their philanthropy to take advantage of the McCuskey Challenge. Thanks for the support to the School of Medicine Annual Fund.

Dr. John M. McCuskey Jr. (M ’60) often found himself pondering the past during his 50-year career as a physician specializing in internal medicine and psychosomatic disease. Now retired and considering his ties to Tulane University, the history buff's attention has

Dr. and Mrs. John McCuskey

shifted to the future.

“The past is good,” he says, “but the future is better.”

Providing for the future with respect to the past has inspired McCuskey and his wife, Sarah, to issue a call to arms to Tulane University alumni and supporters. The McCuskey Challenge encourages continued giving among current donors and inspires younger alumni to contribute to the culture of philanthropy that fuels the School of Medicine’s achievements.

For McCuskey, the gift is also personal. Though more than five decades have passed since his graduation, he remains strongly tied to Tulane and New Orleans.

“John worked really hard at Tulane. He loved how closely the professors worked with the students, how they were true mentors to himself and his classmates,” says Sarah McCuskey. “And he loved the combination of rigorous, intellectual learning taking place in such an interesting and stimulating city. We were both raised in the Midwest, so I know New Orleans was quite a change for him. Tulane allowed John to see the world in different ways and opened him up to a number of possibilities.”

From Tulane to San Francisco

Dr. McCuskey graduatingA native of Peoria, Ill., McCuskey received his medical degree from Tulane in 1960, and he vividly recalls the details of what came next. He describes his internship at Charity Hospital as “being thrown into the fire.” He completed a residency in internal medicine from 1961-1964 and a two-year fellowship in endocrinology. Dr. George E. Burch, a celebrated Department of Medicine chair who died in 1986, is credited for helping Dr. McCuskey land a coveted appointment at a hospital in Paris.

After serving in Europe, McCuskey met Sarah Jane Thorkilson on a tennis court in San Francisco. He was a fellow at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, where he treated patients whose psychological problems compounded their illnesses. Sarah, a Michigan State University alumna, was completing a master’s degree in nursing and studying to become a pediatric nurse practitioner at the University of California, San Francisco.

The McCuskeys married in December 1971 and later had two children, Matthew and Heather. As they put down roots in the City by the Bay, McCuskey says he continued carrying a torch for the Crescent City. Today, McCuskey admits to bouts of “homesickness” while watching HBO’s "Treme."

While New Orleans helped shape his life, McCuskey’s Tulane education catapulted him into a prosperous career as a practicing physician. The McCuskeys say they want to give back to a place that provided them so much.

“I want my story to motivate others,” says Dr. McCuskey.

Please contact Will Arvin with any questions at or 504.247.1834.


1430 Tulane Ave, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-314-7634