Hands-On Kind of Guy

1975 physical therapy grad Larry Mullins gives back to the school that helped make him one of the best trained therapists among his colleagues out east.

Larry Mullins is a hands-on kind of guy.


“After graduating in 1975 from the Physical Therapy program at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences I had the aptitude and desire to excel in manual medicine,” Mullins told North Dakota Medicine over the phone from Ohio. “So after a short period as an inpatient therapist in Dayton I moved to private practice and outpatient settings for the last 25 years of my career. Continuing education was a major part of my life in my quest to better understand how to treat my patients more efficaciously.”

According to Mullins, right, it seemed he was given difficult cases, especially early on, because he consistently had more experience and training than most of his colleagues—a fact he attributes to his time at UND.

“I loved the School and people there, but not so much the weather,” he said. “[Physical Therapy] was a great program that proved itself many times over for me.”

Born into an Air Force family, Mullins graduated from high school while in Guam and ended up at Grand Forks Air Force Base when his family was deployed there in 1969. Using an Air Force Officer’s Club scholarship to attend UND that same year, Mullins was, initially, interested in majoring in pre-medicine.

After taking time to think about his future and researching different medical fields, he found Physical Therapy a good fit. Utilizing school loans and working as an orderly during college he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BSPT degree in 1975—the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college at the time.

Noting a concern with the rising cost of higher education, Mullins argued that were it not for the affordable-by-comparison nature of UND, he would not have been able to attend college.

“I doubt I’d be a PT today because I wouldn’t have been able to afford college even then,” he explained, making reference to a physical therapy program in Ohio where the annual tuition is over $40,000. “If I’d gone anywhere but UND, I’d not be where I am today.”

For their part, UND physical therapy students—who earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, or DPT, after five to six years of combined undergraduate and graduate schooling—at times leave UND with $80,000 of debt.

This is why Mullins recently gave a major gift, to be managed by his trust, to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences for physical therapy student scholarships. And like his career, Larry plans to be hands-on with his gift, which will be part bequest and part scholarship fund.

“I will work closely with the PT program on developing the [scholarship] criteria,” Mullins said. “I’d like to help students with their debt a bit.”

Treating a patient was like a mystery, Mullins added, discussing the challenge of evaluating symptoms, history, and dysfunction before developing an effective treatment. He’s proud of having dedicated his career to improving the field of physical therapy.

“When I graduated there wasn’t much evidence-based research on the efficacy of PT evaluation and treatment techniques. Today research is a major component of being a PT, and I’m happy to have contributed to that a bit.”

Future donors interested in leaving their own legacy or contributing to existing endowments are encouraged to visit the UND Alumni Association and Foundation online at UNDalumni.org/smhs.

By Brian James Schill