SIOUX CITY | With his half-blue ponytail, pink polka-dotted shirt and baggy clown pants, Dr. Hunter Doherty "Patch" Adams doesn't look like your typical doctor.
He doesn't really care for the title, either.
Thursday evening, the 72-year-old physician, public speaker, activist and clown cut a distinctive figure among an otherwise formally dressed crowd as he spoke at a Sioux City Public Schools Foundation fundraising event on one of the topics closest to his heart: education.
"A teacher is the most important person in human culture," he told local media prior to the event, after cracking a few introductory jokes and burping into a TV news microphone. "My mother was a schoolteacher, and everything I like about me came from her."
Notably portrayed by Robin Williams in the film "Patch Adams" in 1998, Adams speaks around the world and regularly visits those in hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes to bring them joy.
Adams is known for founding his Gesundheit Institute in 1971 with the goal of offering free, holistic health care in a communal eco-village atmosphere. His organization has, since it stopped seeing patients in 1983, begun building toward its goal of completing a proper facility.
Thursday evening, Adams said schools should be considered "temples" and that grades should be eliminated because they cripple students by comparing them to one another. Teachers, he said, should make triple their current salaries and have full autonomy in the classroom.
"If we can accept a multi-millionaire ballplayer and a schoolteacher who can’t afford to send their children to college, then we can accept almost anything,” he said.
Adams said he was inspired to confront social issues at an early age after seeing the injustice of racism in the 1960s. After being picked on as a teenager because of his activism and contemplating suicide, Adams said he committed to never have another bad day.
How does he do it? Perspective.
"When I go to a hospital to clown -- and I've been at 10,000 death beds -- I say, 'Who's suffering the most?'" he said. "I know my job is to be radiant."
In addition to speaking at Thursday evening's event, Adams also spoke with groups of Sioux City Schools students.
The Sioux City Public Schools Foundation develops resources to enrich the educational experience of students in the school district in ways that exceed those provided by taxpayer dollars.