The online home of Dr. Philip Fritchey, M.H., N.D., CNHP
Wendell W. Whitman
November 25, 1942 ~ May 21, 2008

 We live in a peculiar time - when notoriety, even notoriousness, is very often confused for greatness.  I have no such confusion.  True greatness has no need to declare itself.  I know with crystal clarity that my life has been quietly touched by a great man.  I will never be the same for it.


 I came to know Wendell Whitman a decade and a half ago - as a student and a seeker.  I had come to a crossroad in my own life.  The Piper of my youth was beginning to demand his payment, and I was hoping to find some refuge and relief from those debts among the magical remedies and panacea promises of an exploding nutritional supplement industry.  It was an industry long on mercenary claims and ambiguity, and short on substance and insight.  With an almost desperate interest rekindled from a nearly forgotten legacy of faith in the Natural Order of things, I had listened to zealots, firebrands, and hucksters hawking silver bullet miracles.  My ears and brain cells had been tortured by pseudo-scientific cynics and barely literate believers alike.  When someone ultimately suggested I look into the Certified Natural Health Professionals program, I’m pretty sure my initial response was, “What do they sell?” 


 I needed have no such concern, of course.  What I found was something entirely refreshing.  No hype or hoopla.  Just down-to-earth, common sense information, presented with passionate reserve by a true gentleman of substance.  While few would have called Dr. Whitman an electrifying speaker, his calm grace and dignified demeanor could completely capture both sense and imagination.  As a teacher, he put enquiring minds and skeptics alike at ease, allowing thoughtful and eloquent explanations to inspire life-altering changes.  His greatness at the podium was the ease with which he motivated thousands of students to make better choices in their lives, by giving them good reason to have faith in those choices.  That, by itself, would have been ample satisfaction for an ordinary man, and reason enough to honor him here.


 But Wendell Whitman was no ordinary man.  


 I quickly learned of the incredible depth and scope of his commitment to health education and health freedom – CNHP, Trinity College, Whitman Publications, HealthKeepers, Nutritional Resources – a list that continued to grow over the years.  Gradually I also met a few members of the amazingly gifted staff that supported his daunting agenda, and the small but dedicated cadre of instructors that helped transport his vision of honest education to any city, town or village that would promise just 20 hungry minds to listen and learn for a weekend.  The greatness of his vision had inspired a group of extraordinary people, and I knew without a question that I had to be a part of that work.  I will forever count myself as blessed to have been able to work for him and with him through this last decade of his life.


 By his actions and example, those of us who were fortunate enough to be near to him learned much more from Dr. Whitman than the principles of Natural Health.  We learned about the essence of true greatness.

 A great man empowers others.  The educational resources that Dr. Whitman created have broken the shackles of ignorance and dependence for countless thousands of health seekers.  His encouragement, guidance, and direct financial support stimulated new businesses, rescued a few from the precipice, provided gratifying jobs for dozens in his own companies, and countless others in businesses of their own.  He even moved a few half-baked ideas from their faltering ovens to the buffet table of the World Wide Web.  (I personally think it may be no accident that virtually every web address uses his initials to this day.)  While it is true enough that some took advantage of, and even abused his supporting hand, he never let that deter him from looking for and finding the best in people around him.

 A great man is selfless.  It is still, blessedly, inevitable that at least some modicum of recognition will follow good works.  It is also probably inevitable that those of us who knew and loved Dr. Whitman will feel that he has yet to receive his due.  I have no doubt, though, that this oversight is of far more consequence to us than it ever was to him.  Over the decade that I worked for him and with him, I can bear witness to some of the enormous outlay of labor and resources he vested in his personal ministry.  I can also attest to the fact that I never once heard an utterance or observed a single action that even remotely suggested a desire for acclaim or personal glory. 

 A great man is a warrior when it’s necessary, and a peacemaker when it’s possible.  In the war to preserve freedom of choice in health care, it would be hard to find a man to whom this industry and our nation owe more than Wendell Whitman.  Time and again he has fought the good fight, for freedom and the basic human right of self-determination.  His mediation, vigilance, and dogged determination to stand against enormous odds to protect us all will be sorely missed. 

 Greatness generates its own legacy.  Measured by the number of lives touched, Wendell Whitman’s indelible mark on this world could hardly be quantified.  In the 20 years since he and his wife Marilyn set out to teach their first class, tens of thousands of his students have been given the opportunity for healthier, more fulfilling lives.  They in turn have been able to share the common sense principles they were taught with their own children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends.  Too many of his students to count have gone on to establish professional practices, providing much needed health alternatives in their communities for people who may never even know Dr. Whitman’s name, but whose lives will be enriched and more vital as surely as if he himself had ministered to their needs.  Around the Country, State Chapters of Natural Health Practitioners have been organized by his inspiration and support, to press for better education and credentialing, and to act as bastions of resistance to the oppressive regulatory efforts of the AMA, FDA, and Big Pharma.  Some few of us have had the fire in our hearts so ignited by his vision that we count it as our honor to stand in his stead, adding to that boundless tally even now that he has gone.

 In the early 17th century, another great man spent much of his life in an effort to bring health freedom to the common man.  Nicholas Culpeper was an apothecary – a compounder of medicines – for the London College of Physicians.  His close association with the doctors of his era convinced him that they had become aloof and arrogant, had separated themselves from the people, and were charging exorbitant fees for their services, while hiding their works in arcane languages like Latin and Greek.  He was determined to do all that he could to resolve what he felt was a travesty of a once-noble profession.  He set about translating the entire pharmacopeia – the catalog of medicines – of the College of Physicians to the common man’s English, and published it.  Culpeper was persecuted and prosecuted for his effort, but he ultimately prevailed and the book became wildly popular.  “The Compleat Physitian” has served as a prototypical herbal since that time, and is still cited in modern health guides and herbals, including my own.

 In the foreword to the third edition published in 1648, shortly before his death, Culpeper offered an explanation for his works and motives.  Knowing that his life was coming to an end, part of what he said seems poignantly appropriate to paraphrase here:

“What remains now, but that we work to glorify God, each in our own places; and do good to ourselves first, by increasing our knowledge; and to our neighbors afterwards by helping their infirmities.”

 “For such as you, my friend, I pray this Nation is worthy.  For you shall I remain grateful, for life; inspired by your vision always to serve others as my own poor powers allow.”

 Dr. Whitman’s own struggle has finished.  That good and faithful warrior has been called home.  His vision lives with us still, and now it is we who must carry the torch forward.  The path will be well lit if we hold that torch high, though, because it is a torch that was fired by greatness.

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