Donald Rathbun, MD

Class Year



Posted on: September 24, 2019

Dr. Donald Rathbun passed away November 25, 2007.

A loving husband and father, an extraordinary physician and an exemplary citizen, Don was born in El Paso on May 3, 1923. He attended Dudley Grade School, El Paso High School and the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy, now known as UTEP. After three years as an engineering student, his college days were interrupted by World War II. In 1944, he volunteered to serve in the United States Air Force where he was assigned to the Manhattan Project as a radio operator. After an honorable discharge in August 1946, he returned to El Paso to complete college as a premed student.

In September 1947, he left to attend medical school at the University of Texas at Galveston. Upon graduation in 1951, he went to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville for his internship. There, he received a two year fellowship in biophysics. He subsequently joined the faculty of neurology as director of the epilepsy clinic for the state of Virginia. In Charlottesville, Don met and married Evelyn Arnold. They returned to El Paso in July of 1959 where they would raise their six children, Gary, Marc, Carolyn, Don, Jane and David.

As the first neurologist to reside in El Paso, Don established a neurology practice that spanned 48 years. After appointment to various state agencies by the governor, Don established and became the first president of the Epilepsy Associations of Texas and El Paso.

Don was a renaissance man of endless curiosity who never ceased in his study of science and medicine. An enthusiast of geology and astronomy, he assembled an extensive meteorite collection. An avid horseman, camper, hiker, and member of the Explorers Club, he once climbed to the base camp of Mt. Everest with his son Don. He was fascinated with the history of the Southwest and Mexico, and was involved with a group of his El Paso friends whose quest for Pancho Villa’s skull was featured a New Yorker article. At the same time, Don was known for his commitment to the highest standards of patient care. Never refusing a patient who was unable to pay, he was known to have accepted token gifts such as meteorites, fossils, ancient purple bottles, poems and even an Aztec key ring.