Plaque renews a sense of class pride, donations

In 1962, each member of the School of Dentistry’s graduating class pledged to give $1,000 back to their alma mater over the course of their careers. The names of these individuals were then recorded on a plaque. The commemorative piece eventually made its way to the attic of the Lyons Building, only to be discovered by the class of 2008. The 2008 graduates were moved to repeat the act by making similar donations. When the class of 2011 followed suit by raising more than $128,000 in gifts and pledges, it was clear — nearly 50 years later — a tradition of pride and donation was reborn.

“Many of our students make a personal pledge to the school over a five-year period, which they fulfill by their first reunion,” said Jim Doyle, director of alumni engagement for the School of Dentistry.

In addition, every student contributes to a class gift at graduation.

“It’s extraordinary that these new alumni, at the start of their careers, make the effort to give back in such a significant way,” Doyle said.

This is the first year that students at all three levels of dental study have pledged to support a class gift — each of which is aimed at making student life better for those who follow. The 2011 dental hygiene graduates gave a record-breaking gift to provide specialized tools for each student. The gift also funds a clinical review course preparing students to take the national board examination required for licensure.

Recognizing the difficulties that the medical campus’ expansiveness creates for new students and patients, D.D.S. graduates chose to fund signage to raise the visibility of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry’s practice areas.

Periodontics residents made the first pledge by a postgraduate group by naming an operatory in their clinic.

“We’re not aware of this type of targeted, student-driven philanthropy at any other dental school,” said Dr. David C. Sarrett, dean of the School of Dentistry. “These are outstanding students and outstanding individuals. To express their gratitude in this philanthropic way shows a high level of commitment to the school and to the profession.”

The 2011 School of Dentistry graduates are thankful for their VCU experience.

“Learning from so many specialized professionals helped make me the best hygienist possible, so I want to help the program in whatever way I can,” said Margaret Snellings (B.S. ’11).

Snellings and her classmates gave more than $18,000 to the dental hygiene program.

“I give to the dental school because that’s where my allegiance lies,” said Dr. Barrett Peters (D.D.S. ’11). “But I believe that if you care about the profession you’ve chosen — whether its dentistry or social work — you can help shape the hearts and minds of individuals to come.”

Peters and his D.D.S. classmates gave nearly $85,000 in pledges and gifts.

“It’s important to reflect back on our time at VCU,” said Dr. Sayward Duggan (D.D.S. ’06; M.S.D. ’11). “I wanted to give back to my future colleagues and to the program. We have wonderful faculty who taught us and guided us. I wouldn’t have the experience that I have now without them.”

Duggan and her two periodontics resident classmates pledged $25,000 to the periodontics clinical graduate program.

To learn more about the School of Dentistry, contact Jim Doyle, director of alumni engagement, at (804) 828-1138 or