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Dental Branch Alumnus Donates $100,000 for Scholarships
Remembering his own struggles to make ends meet while going through dental school, James R. Ballinger, D.D.S., of Weimar has donated $100,000 for scholarships to The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston.
Ballinger is a 1954 graduate of UTDB and a veteran of World War II (1943-46) who saw combat in Germany and occupation duty in Japan. He married Iola Bumgarten of Schulenburg in August 1946.
After graduation, Ballinger started his practice in West University Place and was there 14 years, during which time Iola left school-teaching and joined him in the practice. He credits her with being "a perfect partner during our life together - 42 years of which were spent in our dental practice." She earned certification as a dental assistant during that time.
In 1968, when A.A. Mensik, D.D.S., of Weimar retired, the Ballingers took over his practice there. Happy to be in the rural setting, they practiced in Weimar 28 years, retiring in 1996 after Iola suffered a stroke. She died in November 2005.
Ballinger's donation matches the largest ever received at UTDB for a scholarship - a record set in 1986. This new money will be awarded on the basis of financial need and academic excellence.
"The school will see to it that the people who get the scholarships are people who deserve it," Ballinger said. "I wanted to give to the school that gave me the ability to earn this money to give back."
The first awards of scholarship funds should be made in Fall 2008. The number of recipients will be decided by the Dental Branch Scholarship Committee under the auspices of the school's Office of Student Affairs.
"This is a very special gift to bridge the financial gap for our dental students as they undergo an expensive and rigorous professional education," said Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., dean of the Dental Branch. "It's obvious through Dr. Ballinger's words that he credits a great deal of his success to the strong support of this wife and working partner. This generous scholarship will lighten the load for a future dentist, but if you read between the lines, it's also Dr. Ballinger's way of recognizing how fortunate he was to have someone by his side to help him care for their family of patients."
As chairman of the Open to Health fundraising initiative at the UT Dental Branch, Stephen F. Schwartz, D.D.S., said Ballinger's gift is both generous and visionary.
"Dr. Ballinger understands the impact his dental education has had on his life and on his ability to share his good fortune with generations of dental students to come," Schwartz said. "His story is one that many UTDB graduates can identify with, and some of them may be able to share the bounty dentistry has bestowed on them by giving back to where it all started - at The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston."
By Rhonda Moran, Dental Branch
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