Newkirk, John and Carolyn

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .


Jack Newkirk

(1920 -)

Carol Newkirk

(1929 - 2012)

Jack earned degrees at Carnegie Tech and King’s College in Cambridge, England, where he was a Fulbright scholar. Carol graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a degree in music and sang the lead in several productions of The Schenectady Light Opera Company. Jack started his career as a Research Metalurgist at General Electric Research Laboratory. He was a full professor at Cornell University and the University of Denver.

They moved to Evergreen in 1970.

Jack designed and patented shunts that would improve the quality of life for many people around the world, in some cases saving lives. In the 1960s one of their four children – Victoria, then about 3 years old – was diagnosed as hydrocephalic (water-on-the-brain) and a device was implanted in her head to shunt the excess cerebro-spinal liquid from her brain to a major vein. The device soon became clogged and was due for replacement, requiring a second brain operation. In collaboration with her neurosurgeon and with the cooperation of the foreman of the D.U. machine shop, and with the encouragement of the University, Jack designed and patented an all-silicone rubber shunting device that could be cleared by external digital manipulation only. This device proved to be successful and was manufactured in quantity and shipped internationally through a company, Denver Biomaterials. Inc., that was organized and operated in Evergreen, mostly by Carol. On one occasion, within three days Jack produced a shunt tiny enough to be implanted into the brain of an unborn fetus.  The couple was recognized by an official Commendation by the then-governor Richard D. Lamm (1975-87).

The success of the "Denver Shunt" drew approaches from several surgeons to make implantable shunting devices for managing glaucoma (an eye abnormality), a shunt for reducing the pressure in the inner ear (Menier's disease), and a much larger shunt for draining ascites fluid in the peritoneal cavity to the veinous system. They also designed and produced a practical esophageal tube to replace a failed esophagus. All this activity led to the granting of five U. S. device patents and the erec tion of several buildings for the manufacture of the devices in a location now known as The Evergreen Professional and Technological Center in Marshdale, south of Evergreen. In the 1990s Johnson and Johnson Company acquired rights to all the patents. The Newkirks then formed Colorado Biomedical, Inc. which developed a highly efficient electrosurgical cutting tool in the form of an ultra-sharp tungsten needle that surpassed the sales of all their other products combined.

Zoning for the medical complex was met with fierce opposition, likely because of fear that approval of one case of light industrial zoning would lead to others. In the end, the Newkirks were regarded as having set a standard for Evergreen few others could match. During the 1990s, the complex near Marshdale was renowned for a spectacular display of Christmas lights that spanned several acres along Highway 73. It was Carol’s “gift” to the community, and people from miles around would drive to Evergreen to view and photograph it.

Source:  Jack Newkirk and Linda Kirkpatrick