The “Dental Derby” took off on the computer screen over the summer, with UTSD alumni competing by class year and specialty to raise funds for the new building, scholarships and the Dean’s Excellence Fund.
At www.opentohealth.org/DentalDerby/, anyone could see how the groups were doing, making the site an entertaining tool for the 31 volunteer class captains recruited to reach out to their classmates. Now, the results are in, and the "race" was a big success.
Nearly $400,000 was collected from 200 donors between April 1 and July 31. The Class of 1969 won first place, with $151,000 in gifts committed. The Class of 1973 took second place with $33,800 and the Class of 1954 came in third with $15,700. Making up the rest of the Top 10 were the Classes of 1976, 1983, 1981, 1977, 1980, 1972 and 1966.
Perhaps the biggest success, said UTSD Executive Development Director John Greer, is that a third of the gifts came from first-time donors to the school. “It’s moved many people from just thinking about doing something for the school to actively making the gift, and that establishes a relationship that’s meaningful to both parties,” he said.
Having the support of Open to Health Volunteer Chair W.R. “Bill” Birdwell, DDS ‘73, and UTSD Dean John A. Valenza, DDS ‘81, made it easier to recruit School of Dentistry alumni to pitch the race to their former classmates, Greer said, and having classmate involvement was crucial.
“We’re all more likely to value information that comes from a friend,” he said. “And most of the class captains saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and try to spark their enthusiasm with their own,” Greer said.
One class captain, Elizabeth Hunsaker, DDS ‘85, of Bellaire, said she agreed to help because she has “a real passion for the dental school. We need to realize what a part it’s played in our lives, and we need to give back so it can be a better place in the future,” she said.
Texas subsidizes the cost of an education at its three dental schools – something Hunsaker believes her fellow alumni may not fully realize. But financial support from the state has been declining over the past decade and took an even sharper hit with the recession, so alumni support is more important than ever.
“It takes heart and money to make things happen,” Hunsaker said.