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With record-setting gift, Dr. Garrett challenges Texas alumni

Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 5:27pm

Dr. and Mrs. Fred Garrett (left) have created the first endowed chair in UTSD’s history. Pictured with them are Orthodontics Department Chair Jeryl English, DDS, MS (center), and Dean John A. Valenza, DDS.

Dr. and Mrs. Fred Garrett (left) have created the first endowed chair in UTSD’s history. Pictured with them are Orthodontics Department Chair Jeryl English, DDS, MS (center), and Dean John A. Valenza, DDS.

When Fred Garrett was growing up in Kansas in the 1940s, his schoolteacher parents worked hard to make a living in the public school system, setting an example that would shape his life.

Now 76, Fred Garrett, DDS, MS, is a board-certified orthodontist and clinical professor at The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, where he and his wife, Dianne, have established the first endowed chair in the school’s 106-year history. 

Representing a $500,000 commitment, the Fred A. and Dianne F. Garrett Endowed Chair in Orthodontics is dedicated to Fred’s parents, Frank A. and Rosa Lee Garrett, “and all the other educators who, through their personal sacrifices, provided me with an education and the guidance to become a successful orthodontist,” Fred Garrett wrote into the documents establishing the gift.

When awarded, the funds will be used at the discretion of the department chair to enhance the Department of Orthodontics in ways not otherwise funded by UTSD, such as student travel to educational events, giving the department chair “a way to make everything run smoothly when times are down,” Garrett said. “It will help the chair maintain the quality you want to have.” 

Garrett has been on the UTSD faculty since 1968, teaching one day a week while maintaining a practice in Sugar Land. He’s a graduate of Washington University School of Dentistry in St. Louis, Mo., where he earned his dental degree magna cum laude in 1958, followed by a master of science degree in orthodontics in 1963. In between, he served three years in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps in Hawaii, where he met Dianne on a blind date. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.

“I’ve been [at UTSD] so long, people assume I’m a graduate,” said Garrett, whose actual alma mater – once the oldest dental school west of Mississippi – closed in 1991. “This endowed chair is the first ever funded at this school, and it did not come from an alumnus. I hope this will encourage some of the Texas alumni to step up.”

The Garretts received a standing ovation at the UTSD Fall Faculty Assembly Oct. 27 when the endowed chair was announced.

The Garretts received a standing ovation at the UTSD Fall Faculty Assembly Oct. 27 when the endowed chair was announced.

Garrett is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists. He is a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society and was Washington University’s Orthodontic Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus of 1984.

He is a past president of the Southwestern Society of Orthodontists and was honored with their Martin E. Dewey Memorial Award for service to the specialty. He is also a recipient of the American Association of Orthodontists’ James E. Brophy Award for national service. Garrett has served 18 years on the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation Board and is their current national campaign chairman. He will receive the Eugene and Pauline Blair Distinguished Service Award at the AAOF’s annual meeting in May 2012.

At UTSD, he has twice served as interim chair or program director of the Department of Orthodontics, and he was presented the department’s Yellen-Schoverling Award in 1995.

With the closing of Washington University's dental school, Garrett expanded his loyalty to UT. “I’ve really, truly adopted Texas, and they’ve adopted me,” he said, “and it’s amazing to me, with all the wonderful, successful people we’ve had graduate from UT School of Dentistry, that we haven’t had anyone endow a chair before now.”

He and Dianne hope their history-making gift will inspire others to consider supporting education by supporting The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. 

“Education is at the heart of every profession,” he said, “so I dedicate this endowment to my parents and all the other educators who, through their personal sacrifices, provided me with an education and the guidance to become a successful orthodontist.”

 Chair? Professorship? What’s the difference?

Endowed funds in support of academic positions within The University of Texas System, including the School of Dentistry, are named in a way similar to academic titles, and have great flexibility. The five levels of endowed funds are:

  • Professorship:  $100,000 to $249,999
  • Distinguished Professorship:  $250,000 to $499,999
  • Chair:  $500,000 to $999,999
  • Distinguished Chair:  $1 million to $1,999,999
  • University Chair:  $2 million and up

The names reflect levels of giving and do not signify the academic title of the holder. For example, a faculty professor may hold a "chair" endowment, while a department chair may hold a "professorship" endowment.

Academic endowments enhance a school's ability to recruit and retain top faculty. To learn more about this type of gift, contact UTSD's Executive Director of Development John Greer, 713-486-4380, John.T.Greer@uth.tmc.edu or visit www.opentohealth.org.