• News
In Memoriam: V. Watson “Doc” Pugh ’38


Tucker Street alumnus V. Watson Pugh Jr. ’38 passed away on May 4, 2024. He was 97.

The husband of founding Ravenscroft trustee Frances P. Pugh and the father of four alumni, “Doc” Pugh served for many years as Ravenscroft’s school physician and was a committed supporter of the institution throughout his life. 

“Doc Pugh was a servant leader long before the term was coined. He served his community, his family and friends, and Ravenscroft,” Head of School Doreen Kelly said. “His exceptional legacy of excellence will continue to inspire us as we move forward, making a difference in the lives of others based on his example. It was an honor to know Doc, and I will miss his no-nonsense feedback and good humor.”

Pugh was born March 26, 1927, in Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, son of Vernon Watson Pugh Sr. and Pearl Mae Murphy. He attended Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, and graduated in 1944. He attended medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating in 1951, and completed his medical training at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1953.

He served in the Army Reserve from 1944 to 1968 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Following his marriage to Frances Plimpton in 1957, the Pughs made their home in Raleigh, where “Doc” joined Oberlin Road Pediatrics with his sister, Dr. Alice McInnis. A published history of the practice recounts that, in the early days, “Dr. Pugh would wake up early and practice two hours of anesthesia at Rex Hospital before coming to work at Oberlin Road Pediatrics. His sister, Dr. McInnis, did not believe in days off, and both pediatricians worked seven days every week.” 

He retired in 2002. He enjoyed many of his retirement years in the mountains of North Carolina.

Pugh was a loyal Tucker Street alumnus, having attended the primary school downtown for one year. In the late 1960s, he and his wife were involved in identifying the tract of land for the school’s new North Raleigh campus — adjacent to Tara Farm, where Frances Pugh breeds and trains champion Morgans, Saddlebreds and Hackneys — and subsequent planning to expand the school’s offerings to include middle and upper school divisions. In a brief 1971 profile in the student newspaper, The Nevarmore, he noted that Ravenscroft “has every reason to go on to be one of the best prep schools in the East.”

As neighbors to the new campus, the Pughs hosted many barbecues, picnics, field trips and cross-country meets at Tara Farm. In addition to serving as the school physician, Pugh took on other roles as needed. “With the farm right next door, we had all the equipment to cut the grass and maintain the grounds,” Pugh remembered in an alumni profile in 2007. “There was one employee and I to care for the grounds. I probably had more fun doing that than running my private practice!” 

Pugh was recognized with Ravenscroft’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1992.

Pugh with his wife, longtime Ravenscroft trustee Frances Pugh

The couple’s children Vernon ’76, Holly ’78, Fred ’80 and Walter ’86 attended Ravenscroft, as did six of their grandchildren. Presently, one great-grandchild is enrolled in the Lower School, marking four generations of Pughs in the Ravenscroft community. In 2009, Frances Pugh was inducted into the Ravenscroft Alumni Association’s Class of 1862, making her an honorary alumna.

Over the years, the Pugh family’s continued generosity and commitment to the school has helped ensure Ravenscroft’s continued success. “Whatever we can do to better educate our children will pay dividends long after we’re gone,” Pugh said in a 2015 Ravenscroft Magazine article

Members of the Ravenscroft community have expressed deep respect and abiding affection for him.

“Bill ’74 and I are saddened by Doc’s loss but celebrate his legacy today, as we have for many decades,” former Director of Development and parent of three alumni Mary Moss said. “Fran and Doc were friends of Bill’s parents, and Doc had been his pediatrician long before Bill entered the school as an eighth-grader. Our love for him and his family has no end. He had the gifts of perspective, warmth and wisdom, which he shared openly. We will miss him.”

“Dr. Pugh was steadfast in his loyalty to Ravenscroft,” Phil Higginson, former Associate Head of School for Philanthropy, added. “As the school’s consulting physician for decades, he cared for almost every child that walked the corridors of our campus. He also welcomed our new parents at the annual New Parent Barbecue. While Mrs. Pugh opened her arms and celebrated the new parents, Dr. Pugh baked brownies and roasted the most incredible corn for all to enjoy.”

Pugh is survived by his wife, Frances; his son Vernon Pugh III (Tina) and daughter, Holly Pugh Johnson (David); daughters-in-law Robin Pugh and Joy Kontos; grandchildren, Kristina Pugh ’03, Katerina Pugh ’04, Carl Johnson III ’10 (Alena), Chase Johnson ’14, Anna Pugh ’17, Erin Pugh ’19 and Eric Pugh; and two great-grandchildren, Carl Johnson IV ’36 and Adam Johnson. He was predeceased by three sons, Eric Pugh, Fred Pugh and Walter Pugh.

A memorial service will be held at a future date. Read Pugh’s full obituary and share condolences with the family here.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that friends consider a donation in memory of V. Watson Pugh to The Pugh Family Fund, serving the children of Ravenscroft, 7409 Falls of the Neuse Rd., Raleigh NC 27615, or The American Chestnut Foundation, 50 N. Merrimom Ave. STE 115, Ashville, NC 28804, or a charity of one’s choice.