A Debt Repaid: Liebolt Documentary to Premiere in November

Dr. Frederick Lee Liebolt

Dr. Frederick Lee Liebolt

by Darinda Sharp

In November, Fulbright College will host the premiere screening of a documentary film about a distinguished alumnus. A Debt Repaid: The Legacy of Dr. Frederick Lee Liebolt, by journalism graduate student Kelley Miller, will premiere at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in the Janelle Y. Hembree House’s Boyer Hall.

Miller’s film profiles Liebolt's career as a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, inventor and educator and celebrates his relationship with his beloved alma mater.

When he and his classmate J. William Fulbright earned their degrees in 1925, Liebolt was only 19 years old and the university’s youngest graduate—a distinction he would hold for decades. He went on to graduate and medical school.

Liebolt’s family moved to Fayetteville when he was five, but his Illinois birth made him no less an Arkansan. Before attending the U of A as a college student, he attended University High School, and while his education, career and military service took him to many different states, he remained loyal to Arkansas. He ultimately made his medical practice in New York, but he held tight to Fayetteville and the university and made a point to give back to the place that helped shape his future.

In 1985, Liebolt established an endowed Chair of Premedical Sciences on campus. He wanted to support a premedical program that would enhance the undergraduate experience of students interested in the field of medicine and insure that students were able to enter the medical school of their choice.

Today, the Liebolt Premedical Program in Fulbright College provides guidance to students from every college who are interested in becoming a physician. The program assists students from all degree programs, works with alumni who choose to apply to medical school and advises students who have completed a degree at another institution but plan to attend the University of Arkansas to fulfill their medical school requirements. Students have been accepted to a variety of medical schools including the University of Arkansas for Medial Sciences, Baylor, Cornell, Emory, Johns Hopkins, McGill, Tufts, Vanderbilt and Liebolt’s alma matter Washington University in St. Louis.

The University of Arkansas awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws in 1948 and named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 1973. In 1989, Liebolt gave the Fulbright College commencement address. Upon his death in 1996, he bequeathed his papers to the University of Arkansas Libraries, housed in Special Collections.

Please join the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Arkansas, at the premiere of A Debt Repaid on Friday, Nov. 7, to learn more about this respected physician who will be remembered for his pioneering work in orthopedic surgery, distinguished teaching career, patriotism and loyalty to the university that gave him his start.


Darinda Sharp

About the author

Darinda Sharp serves as director of communications for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.